The importance of the Czech Nonet at the turn of the millennium did not lay in promoting an unusual instrumental combination as, since its foundation, both the compositional and the interpretation techniques had changed a great deal and the Nonet, as an instrumental ensemble, was known to most of the concert world. Its importance was seen in the insistent purposeful promotion both of classic and contemporary acoustic music, presenting new compositions and their propagation both at home and abroad, in interesting the younger musicians in chamber music – most of all during a cooperation within chamber concerts with an extended number of players -, interesting the listeners towards contemporary music and also organizing the chamber concert cycle entwined with the works of renowned fine artists, called Music and Paintings. With this credo and these ambitions, the Czech Nonet entered the third millennium.
Return to the USA & The First American Composition
Shortly after the turn of the Millennium, the Czech Nonet was approached to return to the United States for the first time in nearly 25 years. A series of organizational issues for the tour resulted in the tour not occurring. Through circumstances no longer recalled, the aborted tour brought about the Nonet’s introduction to Stanton Management in New York which already managed several highly respected Czech artists in North America and had been producing orchestral and soundtrack recordings in Prague for a number of years. The Stanton office connected with tour locations from the aborted tour, added others and in April 2002 the Czech Nonet did return to the USA for the first time in almost 25 years. That tour was reminiscent of years past with 9 concerts in 9 days ranging from Green Bay to Chicago to Cleveland to Amherst, Mass. and points in between. The tour was highly successful for the venues, local critiques were very enthusiastic, and the Nonet returned home renewed in spirit.
The success of the tour spawned the idea of two USA tours in 2004, the Nonet’s 80th Anniversary Season. The Nonet was to tour the USA for 44 days in 2004. Venues took us across nearly the entire country including a return to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Wolf Trap Performing Arts Park, Beaches Fine Arts (Jacksonville – a most unique series with no admission charges and paid for by hosting a major Triathalon each year), Bach Festival Society (Orlando), Rhode Island Chamber Concerts (Brown University), Los Alamos Concert Association (New Mexico), and a host of other locations.
Three important events happened during our 2nd and 3rd recent USA tours. First, we became introduced via live concerts (versus recordings) to a broader American audience via USA National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” program and Minnesota Public Radio’s “Saint Paul Sunday.” Performance Today has aired multiple segments multiple times in response to listener requests. The more recent Saint Paul Sunday broadcast has been sold in syndication as far away as New Zealand and is scheduled for multiple airings in the US in its normal time slot. These endeavors have also been instructive for the Nonet as our first exposure to “public” radio versus the European system of normally 100% government supported radio. That the American public supports their radio system for good music by donation is a marvel to us. (Niagara Falls and the Kennedy Space Center are also now marvels to us.)
The second important event brought about our first composition by an American composer, Pulitzer prize-winning composer Robert Ward (b. 1917). When engaged by the Raleigh (North Carolina) Chamber Music Guild a discussion ensued about our need to finally, after 80 long years, have a work written for us by an American. The Nonet became enchanted by an earlier (1981) work of Dr. Ward titled Raleigh Divertimento. The work had been commissioned for the Aspen Wind Quintet by the RCMG. A number of important works (by way of example works from Lutoslawski) for the Czech Nonet have been adaptations or re-workings of earlier works. The A. J. Fletcher Foundation stepped forward with funds to have Raleigh Divertimento recreated as a Nonet. The work has since received multiple performances, has aired multiple times on NPR’s “Performance Today” and we enjoyed meeting the charming Dr. Ward at the Raleigh performance.
A Case Study in Community Involvement in the USA
A third important event was a unique offer from the Meade County Performing Arts Council in Meade, Kansas. We later learned that Meade, Kansas (in the heart of America’s “bread basket”) had a total population of 10,000 (in the entire county of hundreds of square miles, not the town) and they wanted us to present their very first performing arts event. The good citizens of the County were going to start bringing quality art to their communities, friends and neighbors. A very large, warm and highly enthusiastic audience awaited us at the excellent high school auditorium. We performed a program heavy with contemporary works on a first half that were exceptionally well-received. The following morning, we performed an educational program for students from Meade and several of the surrounding community school systems. Impromptu special lessons for music students followed and we had to plead with our intrepid hornist, Vladimira Klanska, to end her teaching so we could get on the road to New Mexico.
For the Czech Nonet, Meade represented the confirmation of several things: America is amazingly diverse, and, audiences without preconceptions and prejudices can enjoy almost any music regardless of period. Our audience in Meade included people that have been in or around the music business for decades, people in the graphic and visual arts, merchants, farm workers and real life cowboys – hats included. And, we learned the true meaning of larger community involvement in support of the arts in America. The efforts of MCPAC, we later learned, had been supported by the airing of some 45 ‘public service announcements’ by a local Christian radio station, a regional public radio outlet had run similar announcements and given away tickets during a funding drive, a local printer and county agricultural agent had printed and mailed an announcement to every family in the entire county (much of this at their personal expense), and the Dodge City (yes, the famous one) newspaper had run our individual photos in a series of nine weekly articles leading up to the performance.
80th Anniversary Concert
The official 80th Anniversary concert of the Czech Nonet was given on January 8, 2004 at the Gallery of the Lichtenstein Palace (Academy of Performing Arts) in Prague as part of the “Music and Paintings” concert series. The “Music and Paintings” concert series, operated by the Czech Nonet, is accompanied by exhibitions of primarily Czech contemporary art. The January 8 concert featured drawings and paintings of Jitka Hilska. For this anniversary concert, the Nonet performed works by composers associated with the Czech Nonet and its history: Nonet-Divertimento by Isa Krejci; Nonet by Josef Bohuslav Foerster (the first composition written for the Czech Nonet); and the Quintet for Piano and Winds by Zdenek Fibich (performed on the very first concert of the Czech Nonet in 1924).
The “Music and Paintings” concert series has become a vital part of the musical life of Prague and the Czech Nonet invites noted chamber musicians to perform on the series. In 2004, guest artists included the Guarneri Trio, Epoque Quartet, and Prague Piano Duo.
The 2004 Anniversary in Czech Republic and Europe
As in other seasons, the Czech Nonet toured the Czech Republic and other countries in 2004. After several January concerts in Prague, the Czech Nonet traveled in February to Hamburg, Germany and then on to the United States. Additional concerts in the Czech Republic followed with subsequent tours of Germany in June and Great Britain in July. The fall brought the second tour of the United States for 2004 followed by the third German tour of the year. In between the Czech Nonet recorded and gave numerous concerts in the Czech Republic, several as part of the “Music and Painting” concert series. The repertoire performed in 2004 consisted of works performed extensively in the last few years along with some notable new works: an adaptation of Bach’s Italian Concerto by “the last living Czech Baroque composer” F.X. Thuri (commissioned by the Nonet); two premiere recordings of new works by Czech composer Tatiana Mikova; a nonet adaptation of Raleigh Divertimento by American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Robert Ward (commissioned with funding from the A. J. Fletcher Foundation); and the world premiere of an experimental nonet by a very young composer, Marjan Stojilkovic.
In addition, the Czech Nonet with guest artists recorded a CD of works of Sergei Prokofiev for Praga Digitals. The CD will be released in 2005.
During 2004, the Czech Nonet performed 44 different compositions, 28 of which were by Czech composers, recorded two CDs, and made five recordings for various broadcasting companies (both as radio programs and as live concert recordings). In total, the Czech Nonet gave 52 performances in 2004.
This document has been compiled from multiple sources in multiple languages. The majority of this document was first written in Czech. Some quoted newspaper/magazine copy has been through multiple translations in multiple languages. The intent of the current English language version is to keep as much of the original writers intentions while making the English functional.
This document may be freely reproduced and used provided attribution is made as from: The Czech Nonet, History and Observations, Update 02/15/2005. © 2005 Czech Nonet.