Music experts who follow the endlessly surprising musical output of violin improviser and innovator Iva Bittova would agree that one of her most sophisticated recordings has been her treatment of Bela Bartok's 44 Duets for two violins. Obviously, Bittova, who usually makes music on her own, needed a partner for this album. Her choice was a former colleague Dorothea Kellerova - they both studied violin with the same professor. Only few people were aware that even back then Kellerova had her own band, with the strange name "Quakvarteto", which over the years has grown into 6-member setup. They love to move between musical styles with a witty smile, mixing piano and violin with woodwind, tuba and vocals. They recently released a new album - an adaptation of Children's Songs by Chick Corea.
Dorothea still remembers when she heard one of the first of Iva Bittova's concerts.
"That would be around 1984, when she still played with Pavel Fajt. I was both shocked and fascinated by her music. Also, during her performance I heard one of Chick Corea's Children's Songs. She made her own arrangement: she sung the left hand part, while she played on her violin the right hand part."
Being a classical musician, Dorothea Kellerova found strong inspiration in work of the contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part.
"That was in 1987, my friend brought me sheet music for Part's composition 'Fratres', and I planned to perform it during my studies at the Academy."
But playing music by living composers was quite risky during the Communist time, especially when they lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
"A week before the concert, the programme was censored and the Part composition was removed from the programme. The authorities found out, that Part was not Russian, but Estonian, living in exile in Germany."
You can hear music from Quakvarteto's last CD on Magic Carpet, on April 25th 2004.
For concerts check www.quakvarteto.cz
Magic Carpet is Radio Prague's monthly music magazine that looks at music from Czech, Moravian and Silesian towns and villages. The programme covers a wide selection of genres, from traditional folk to the exotic and experimental.
It is presented by Petr Doruzka, one of the Czech Republic's foremost music journalists.
25.4.2004:The six-member group Quakvarteto, led by the violinist Dorothea Kellerova,
relishes moving between different musical styles with wit and irony,
mixing piano and violin with woodwind, tuba and vocals. In Petr Doruzka's
Magic Carpet we hear from their latest CD, adapting Chick Corea's
28.3.2004:With village music in decline, Petr Doruzka introduces us to one of the
Czech Republic's most original and imaginative groups bringing new life to
traditional folk songs - the Moberg Ensemble.
For copyright reasons we are unable to archive the programmes in audio, but here at least are a few words about some of the recordings featured recently in the programme.
29.2.2004: The gypsy settlements in Slovakia are probably the nearest place to the Czech Republic where Roma are still able to maintain their lifestyle untouched by urban life. In past years, the Slovak song collector Jana Belisova from Bratislava made several field recording trips to these villages, produced two CDs, and two books (in Prague you'll find them in the Romen Shop, Nerudova Street 32). In the programme: a Gypsy Christmas song from Slovakia, plus Zuzana Navarova with Mario Bihari, the blind Gypsy accordion player, and The Devil Fiddlers from Bratislava meet Andalusian flamenco.
1.2.2004: Up in north-eastern part of the Czech Republic, close to the Polish border, lies the city of Ostrava, formerly a heavy industry centre, now developing a new identity. One of the most important artists of this region is Jaromir Nohavica - a singer, songwriter and poet. His latest CD, titled Babylon, was one of the most successful and also most interesting albums of past year. Also in the programme: Salute Zappa, a homage to the American composer Frank Zappa by Czech bands.
4.1.2004: Petr looks at some new releases by Czech independent labels. Well be hearing the Czech guitarist Pavel Richter as well as the amazing Romany musician Iva Bittova, with the re-release of a fantastic recording from 15 years ago with her half-sister, Ida Kellarova. Listen out as well for the new album of the band Gothart, entitled "Rakija 'n' Roll". Gothart are a group of Czech musicians who've become enamoured of the Balkans and draw from Serbian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Armenian tradition.
7.12.2003: Petr Doruzka introduces us to Tarafuki a very unusual band, made up of two young women cellists who sing their own songs ranging from quiet intimacy to load ecstasy. Dorota Barova and Andrea Konstankiewicz are of mixed Czech-Polish ancestry and sing in both languages. They have just released their second CD Kapka meaning a drop - and are rapidly becoming well known, throughout Europe and especially in France. At the end of the programme, listen out from the most unusual song on the CD Quiet Weeping.
09.11.2003: To this day in Moravia you still come across traditional cimbalom-and-fiddle village wedding bands. In the last ten years this music has enjoyed a revival. Established artists like Iva Bittova now compete with a new generation of young, fresh and creative musicians. In Magic Carpet we hear music from the CD sampler "Magic Playing Moravian Roots", introducing new discoveries and featuring a rare recording of Iva Bittova and her sister Ida Kellarova.
12.10.2003: Katka Sarkozi, singer, songwriter and guitarist started her career almost ten years ago, but her latest CD seems to be a breakthrough. It is titled "Magorie", translated as Insanity, Rage or Ferocity, and its impact is like that of a hushed scream that keeps haunting you for the rest of the day.
See also The History of Music.
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