The Bohemian town of Kladruby is famous worldwide for its horse stud farm, founded by the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II. It is also home to a spectacular 12th century Benedictine monastery where the martyred saint of Bohemia, John of Nepomuk, was tried and tortured. An effort is now afoot to have the cloister and Czech Baroque Gothic style church named a European Heritage site.
Karel Čapek was a leading Czech interwar novelist, playwright and journalist and is perhaps most remembered for works of science fiction such as The War with the Newts and R.U.R., which gave the world the word “robot”. But did you know that Čapek was also a travel writer? His pieces from around Europe are the focus of the book In Search of a Shared Expression by Mirna Solic, a lecturer at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Glasgow. I spoke to her on the phone from Scotland.
Essayist, educator and debut novelist René Georg Vasicek was conceived in communist-era Czechoslovakia, born in Austria a year after the Soviet-led invasion of his parents’ homeland, and raised in the pine barrens of eastern Long Island, New York. His novel The Defectors is a self-described book of odd and uncanny episodes about people, many of them Czechs, trying not just to escape reality but “defect” from it.
Singer, dancer and former Czech pop idol finalist Benny Cristo will represent the Czech Republic at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with the Afro pop song Kemama. The 32-year-old singer of Czech-Angolan heritage won the Czech national round, leaving behind six other finalists. I spoke to him about his success and started by asking about the song he has chosen to compete with.
Ivan Král, a celebrated Prague-born musician, composer and producer who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s, died on Sunday at the age of 71. Early in his storied career, he played with Patti Smith, with whom he co-wrote ‘Dancing Barefoot’, named among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. Král also wrote for rock icons such as Iggy Pop and David Bowie, while bands such as U2 and Pearl Jam covered his songs.
Czech classical music is not only a part of national culture and history, but also of the nation’s soul. This year we have prepared a series on the renowned hits of Czech classical music. You will be familiar with many of them, as they are widely known and regularly performed in concert halls all over the world. The background to their creation and how they were recorded will all be covered by this series in the coming weeks.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most infamous of Nazi death camps. Throughout the Czech Republic, memorial services are taking place to honour the memory of the millions condemned to death by Hitler’s fascist regime. It is also a day for helping young Czechs better understand the incomprehensible tragedy – through a historic children’s opera called Brundibár, performed at the wartime Jewish ghetto and concentration camp in Terezín, northern Bohemia.
Czech classical music is not only a part of the national culture and history, but also of its very soul. This year, we have prepared a series on renowned works of Czech classical music. Listeners will be familiar with many of them, as they are widely known and regularly performed in concert halls all over the world. The background to their creation and how they were recorded will all be covered by this series in the coming weeks.