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Czech composers debut piece at music fest
Three Czech Republic professors from different universities teamed up with music theory professor Thomas Sovik, the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas, and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, Czech Republic, to bring north Texas a taste of Czech music and culture.
The International Music Festival and Academic Conference is about the life, works and contribution of Czech opera composer Leoš Janáček.
The festival, Feb. 6-9, is a four-day series of performances, master classes, workshops and academic lectures in the Murchison Performing Arts Center and the College of Music’s concert halls and theaters.
From 17th century orchestra pieces to choral groups, the festival’s variety of musical events was meant to stay true to the composer’s authentic Czech roots.
“This festival has big pieces that other schools can’t perform,” Sovik said. “We’re doing things most music schools can’t even attempt.”
Leoš Janácek, pronounced “yawn-ah-check”, is recognized as one of the most important composers in the Czech Republic. Born into a poor Brno family, Janáček went on to excel at the top of his class in the Prague Organ School.
Going back to Brno, he began teaching at the Brno Organ School. It was not until later in his life that Janáček dedicated himself to his compositions. He worked with Czech folklorists on the creation of two compilations in which they used an Edison phonograph, making Janáček the first to use phonographic recordings as a folklore research tool.
Professor of clarinet and head of the department of music at the Janáček Acadamy, Dr. Vít Spilka helped develop ideas and the overall picture of the festival.
Spilka worked on the final piece of the festival, Zápisník Zmizelého, for a week and is ready to see the American premiere of the newly-orchestrated version of Janáček’s one-act opera unfold.
“It is good to know this is a world premiere for this piece,” Spilka said. “This is the first performance of the instrumental version sung by Ivo Medek’s son.”
UNT’s college of music hosts the longest-running relationship with the Czech Republic, according to CEFT on the Janáček festival website.
The college of music was granted $2 million from CEFT to help fund this festival in support of Czech music, which they do every year. Even-numbered years focus on string sets and full group, brass bands around Texas, and odd-numbered years focus on projects in the Denton area.
“I think it’s great that UNT is hosting this festival,” English senior Hannah Sandle said. “It brings culture and new music to the already eccentric and diverse UNT campus.”
The music events in Winspear Hall are free to UNT students and UNT college of music staff, faculty and retirees. The price is $10 for adults; $8 for non-UNT students, children, senior citizens and other UNT faculty, staff and retirees.