Not only is Bohuslav Martinů one of the most famous Czech composers, but next to Antonín Dvořák he is also the most played. Born in the small Czech village of Polička on December 8, 1890, Martinů would end up spending most of his life abroad, writing hundreds of compositions and experimenting with styles including expressionism, constructivism and jazz. Despite living in Paris and the United States for much of his life, he was also a fervent patriot, who included Czech folk music themes into his compositions and even volunteered to serve in the
A new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London brings together fifteen diverse cars to explore how the automobile accelerated the pace of change over the past century and the impact it had on the broader world, from visual culture to climate change. One of the cars selected for the show is the legendary Tatra 77, designed in Czechoslovakia in 1934. I spoke to Brendan Cormier, one of the exhibition’s curators, to find out more about the exhibition, which will run until April 2020:
The early 20th century naïve painter and sketch artist Robert Guttmann, in whose honour the exhibition gallery of the Jewish Museum in Prague is named, was famous in his day. Mainly due to his striking appearance, eccentric manner and extensive travels – often on foot – in promotion of the nascent Zionist movement. A fixture in Prague cafés and bars, where he sold his art for pocket change, “the Professor”, as he was known, was among the most photographed and caricatured personalities in Czechoslovakia. Yet few know his story today.
The celebrated Czech-born writer Milan Kundera received Czech citizenship forty years after it was revoked by the communist regime. The author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being was stripped of his citizenship after going into exile in France and his works were banned in his homeland until the 1980s.
The music project Zvíře jménem Podzim (An Animal Named Autumn) is the brainchild of Jakub König, who also goes by the name Kittchen. However, on Září, their recently released second LP, Zvíře jménem Podzim have expanded to become a veritable orchestra and now include such players as Terezie Kovalová, Tomáš Neuwerth, Marie Puttnerová, Ondřej Mataj, Ondřej Zátka and Veronika Linhartová. Ably abetted by producers Aid Kid and Pjoni, the collective’s second LP is a triumph.
The 1966 film Daisies by Věra Chytilová has come sixth in an extensive new BBC poll of the 100 greatest works by female directors. But what makes the surreal, anarchic Czechoslovak New Wave film such a classic? I discussed Daisies with journalist Hynek Pallas, who wrote a description of it for the BBC project.
Prague has obviously changed enormously over the last 30 years. But what have been the city’s most, and least, impressive construction projects since the Velvet Revolution? After the Dancing House, why did interest in audacious projects seem to cool? And how has Wenceslas Square fared? Who better to answer those questions than architect Jan Kasl, who is president of the Czech Chamber of Architects and served as mayor of Prague from 1998 to 2002. We chatted recently on Na příkopě St., in the very heart of the city centre.
As Czechs marked the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the return of freedom to the country, streets and squares resounded with the iconic protest songs linked to the Prague Spring and 1989. Songs reflecting people’s hopes in 1968 and the frustration of Czechs following the crushing of the Prague Spring became underground cult hits, going from hand to hand, recorded on the old cassette recorders and played in the privacy of people’s homes. Among them are Karel Kryl’s famous Bratříčku zavírej vrátka (Keep the Gate Closed, Little Brother)composed
In the first episode of this two-part series we got to know Barbara Day, who first came from England to Prague in 1965 and whose life has been closely connected to this country ever since. She talked about her interest in Czechoslovak theatre, and her involvement with some notable Czech theatres over the last five decades. Azadeh Kangarani continues the story.