Brno Children’s Choir
21. 10. 2021, 7 pm, Mozart Hall, Reduta Theatre
Brno Children’s Choir
Choirmaster: Valeria Maťašová
Leoš Janáček (1854–1928): Nursery Rhymes, JW V/7 – for 9 voices and 10 instrumentalists
Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959): The Opening of the Wells, H 354
Cantata for soloists, reciter, female or children´s choir and a chamber ensemble
Hans Krása (1899–1944): Brundibár
Children´s opera in two acts with a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister
Janáček´s playful Nursery Rhymes from 1925 is one of his few compositions that will also appeal to younger listeners. He found inspiration (as he had many times before) in the Lidové noviny newspaper, where nursery rhymes with cheerful drawings by Josef Lada, Ondřej Sekora and Jan Hála were published. Janáček had a whole collection of them at home. He chose eight of them and composed a cycle of compositions for 3 mezzo-sopranos, clarinet, piano and a children´s drum. The premiere took place in the hall of the Besední dům in Brno on 26th October 1925, and it was a great success. One year later, the composer extended the Nursery Rhymes to contain ten more items. Moreover, he added other voices and instruments to the score and framed them with a short overture and a finale. It is interesting that Janáček wanted colour images to be projected while the composition was being performed but the technology available at the time was insufficient for the execution of his vision. Josef Lada fulfilled Janáček´s wish much later, in 1948, when he made a cartoon based on the Nursery Rhymes together with the director Eduard Hofman. It was Lada´s first experience with animated films. At the concert, Nursery Rhymes will be accompanied by the original film.
The Opening of the Wells is probably the most famous work by Bohuslav Martinů. This is probably due to the artist´s intimate confession of his loneliness and unfulfilled desire to return home, which was denied to him by the Communist regime. It is not surprising that this native of Vysočina longed so much for his home when his last visit to his homeland had taken place in 1938. Perhaps that is why he responded so positively to the text by Miroslav Bureš, a native of Polička, and in 1955 composed this fragile chamber cantata which conveys the listener back to an ancient ritual for welcoming the spring. In Martinů´s work, this custom is intertwined with the wisdom of old age and an understanding of the fate which has awaited all humans for generations untold.
This edition of the festival will once again commemorate a work intended for children who were deported to the Terezín Ghetto during World War II. This time, it will probably be the most famous piece connected with Terezín, the children´s opera Brundibár composed by Hans Krása with a text by Adolf Hoffmeister. The opera was originally created for a competition organized in 1938 by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, the events of history unfolded differently and the competition was not evaluated. In 1944, the director of the Prague Jewish orphanage, Otto Freudenfeld, decided to perform the opera. However, the composer himself didn´t take part in the production as he had already been deported to Terezín. Subsequently, Freudenfeld also went to Terezín and he managed to smuggle the piano abstract from the opera into the camp. Krása re-instrumented it again and the famous premiere took place on 23rd September 1943 in the Magdeburg barracks hall. The opera Brundibár, which is about an oppressor who is defeated by the joint forces of children and animals, gave the audience and the child performers from Terezín a chance to forget for just a moment the horrific world that surrounded them. Needless to say, many of the performers didn´t live to see the end of the war, just like the author of the opera himself, Hans Krása, who was murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp in October 1944.
Author: Jiří Zahrádka