This week’s Sunday Music Show is devoted to Karel Svoboda one of the country’s most prolific composers, the author of countless hit-songs, well-known scores for films, musicals, TV series and theatre productions. Although the man himself was never centre stage several generations of Czechs grew up with his music and people still hum many of his evergreens.
Nothing better symbolizes the political thaw in 1960s Czechoslovakia than the boom in jazz, which many saw as embodying the very idea of individual expression and freedom from constraint. It is not hard to imagine the excitement when Louis Armstrong came to Prague in March 1965. Many people felt that Czechoslovakia had at last come in from the cold, and his concert at Prague’s Lucerna Ballroom was a cultural milestone. It ended with Satchmo thanking his audience, commenting that the Czech passion for jazz had come as quite a surprise to him.
Here is a question for the Dickens bicentenary. What is the connection between the great 19th century English novelist and the best-loved Czech literary anti-hero? The answer is, surprisingly enough, that without Dickens we quite possibly wouldn’t have Švejk at all. David Vaughan looks at this and some other Czech links with Dickens in this week’s Czech Books.
The undisputed most famous Czech director alive today, Milos Forman speaks about his varied career in the Czechoslovakia and in Hollywood ahead of his 80th birthday. I’ll be talking to the model, singer and now actress Iva Fruhlingova about what it’s like to make her screen debut and the ups and downs of working with one of the most successful Czech directors still resident in the country, Filip Renc.
The first show of the season opened last Friday at the Villa Becher Interactive Gallery in Karlovy Vary: called Sklo-Sklu-Sklem/Glas-Glaser-Am Glasersten the new exhibition is a first foray by a number of Czech and German colleagues (painters, photographers, filmmakers and designers) in working in glass.
The functionalist Mánes Exhibition Hall, located on the right bank of the Vltava river between the bridges Jiraskův most and Most Legií, is one of only two buildings in Prague that were expressly designed to house art – the other one being the famous Rudolfinum gallery. Martin Pavala, the chairman of the supervisory board of the Czech Art Foundation, which owns it, explains that the art gallery’s history started in 1930.
Petr Novák's unmistakeable, delicate tenor voice is synonymous with Czechoslovak society of the late 1960s. This talented musician shot to fame in this country at the time of the Prague Spring, when his gentle love songs influenced by Western pop groups like The Beatles were hugely popular among young Czechs. His success during this era, however, proved to be short-lived and his career subsequently stagnated under the influence of communist repression and his own problems with alcohol.
Hradišťan is one of the country’s most respected interprets of folk music. The band started as a folk music ensemble in the south Moravian town of Uherské Hradiště – hence the name – in the 1950s but its rise to popularity and critical acclaim began when Jiří Pavlica became the band’s leader, or primáš, in the 1970s.
In last week’s From the Archives we featured Martin Luther King, interviewed by Czechoslovak Radio in 1963. But Dr King was not the first civil rights campaigner to address Czech and Slovak radio listeners. Four years earlier, in June 1959, Paul Robeson came to Prague, to take part in an international left-wing cultural congress. Robeson was a man of many talents – singer, actor, athlete, writer and civil rights activist. He never concealed his sympathies with the communist regimes of the Eastern Bloc, and his political views – combined with the
Anyone familiar with the Czech electronic and dance music scene will have come across the work of Jitka Charvátová, also known as Ji, the charismatic and talented former singer for cutting edge groups like Skyline and the late Milan Hlavsa’s 1990s band Fiction. Now Jitka has reset her career with a recently released but already highly-lauded new solo album called Feed My Lion, featuring 8-bit, electro pop and elements of hip hop.