It was apt that one of the participants in this year’s Prague Writers’ Festival was the Egyptian novelist Hamdy el-Gazzar, who played an active part in the dramatic events last spring on Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It is no coincidence that the revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East came to be known as the “Arab Spring”, taking their name from events in Czechoslovakia – the Prague Spring – over forty years earlier. You do not have to look far to find parallels between the atmosphere of then and now, and the events of ’68 are also a warning
In the 1970s the communist authorities tolerated popular music as long as it was insipid, colourless and unoriginal – everything that the Czech psychedelic rock band The Plastic People of the Universe most definitely was not. Their music was inspired by Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground, their lyrics anarchic, their behaviour unconventional and their hair long. In 1976 four members of the band were sentenced to prison terms for what was described as “organised disturbance of the peace”, and in December of the same year Czechoslovak Radio broadcast
In the Czech Republic and increasingly even abroad, violinist Pavel Šporcl enjoys the kind of name recognition that aspiring rock stars dream of. A natural talent, he became the enfant terrible of the classical music world when first he arrived on the scene, forgoing a tuxedo for a bandana and taking an interactive approach to his concerts. Having toured the world over and recorded roughly a dozen albums, 36-year-old Pavel Šporcl is not only a dominant but a defining force in classical music. I met Pavel as he was preparing for a concert, and asked
Lubomír Dorůžka first began writing about music seven decades ago when, during WWII, he produced a clandestine magazine on his greatest passion, jazz. The quintessential American art form was frowned upon by the Communists after their 1948 takeover of Czechoslovakia. However, in the relatively liberal 1960s Mr. Dorůžka was able to edit music magazines and play a very active role in international jazz organisations. As well as being a music journalist, he is also a renowned translator of American and British writers – and as a young man did many
Prague’s Antonín Dvořák Museum recently reopened after renovation with a new programme dedicated to the life and work of the famous composer. Entitled The journeys of Antonín Dvořák, it offers a new look at the composer’s stays abroad. It also features an exhibition on Dvořák’s Czech-American friend and collaborator, Josef Jan Kovařík, who worked with Dvořák during his stay in New York.
The 1960s had seen a thriving musical scene in Czechoslovakia, which had been broadly tolerated by the regime, especially during the 1968 Prague Spring. With the political clampdown of the early 70s, rock and pop music were also to suffer. But this was a gradual process, and, initially at least, the communist authorities were careful not to go too far to alienate young people.
In this week’s Arts my guest is Canadian opera singer Melanie Gall – a soprano who has performed around the world including in Israel, Italy, France and the Czech Republic. This week she dropped by Radio Prague’s studio to discuss upcoming performances at this year’s American Spring Festival. She’s is a charming guest with a great sense of humour and Melanie talks not only about what she’ll be performing while in Prague but also about opera in general.
It was another cold, grey morning for the thousands of commuters who passed through the city’s crowded metro stations making their way to work on Wednesday morning. But on this particular day the mood in Prague’s busy subway was different. An all-day musical happening put a smile on people’s faces and many stopped to listen, even if it meant missing their regular train connection.