wed 21/02/2024

Czech

Segev, LPO, Lyniv, RFH review - melody, magic, and mourning

We began in a forest packed with dangers and delights and ended, also in the Czech lands, with an infectiously joyful country dance. In between, however, came a sombre and spellbinding exposure to the pain and grief of war.Last night at the Royal...

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Blu-ray: Pearls of the Deep

Released in 1965, Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dně) is that rare beast, a successful portmanteau movie. Five young Czech film makers each directed a segment, with two more contributions excised for reasons of length and later released separately....

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Blu-ray: The Cassandra Cat

As films involving cats go, The Cassandra Cat (Až přijde kocour) is up there with the best. Part fairy-tale, part political satire, Vojtěch Jasný’s 1963 fantasy, shot on location in the picturesque village of Telcis, is an offbeat, unclassifiable...

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Rusalka, Royal Opera review - ravishing sounds, torpid staging

Psychological depths in the myth of the water nymph who yearns for the human world, with disastrous results, have led to some unusual settings for Dvořák’s operatic masterpiece on the theme: a nursery, a hotel room (both successful), a brothel (not...

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Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH review - total brilliance in Bartók, Dvořák and Strauss

Salome was not to get her head on a silver platter: Jennifer Davis, due to sing the bloody final scene of Strauss’s opera, had been experiencing abdominal pains during her first pregnancy – mother and child are fine – and had to withdraw at a late...

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Blu-ray: Desire / All My Good Countrymen - Two films by Vojtěch Jasný

Hailed by Miloš Forman as “the spiritual father of the Czech New Wave”, Czech film director Vojtěch Jasný’s long career began in the early 1950s and spanned five decades. All My Good Countrymen (Všichni dobří rodáci), based on a screenplay...

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Blu-ray: Larks on a String

Jiří Menzel's Larks on a String (Skřivánci na niti) was in production while Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague in August 1968. Predictably, the film was banned by the new Czechoslovak regime and it remained unreleased until 1990, though illicit video...

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Blu-ray: Coach to Vienna

As a title, Coach to Vienna suggests an opulent Boule de Suif-like drama directed by Max Ophüls and starring the likes of Danielle Darrieux and Michel Simon. But Karel Kachyňa’s film is no Viennese waltz. It’s a bleak end-of-World War II drama in...

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Wang, Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov, Barbican review - the sound of history

“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner famously wrote. “It’s not even past.” Funny to think that I approached 2022 bored in advance with all the glib celebrations of post-WWI international modernist breakthroughs that the centenary of Ulysses...

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Blu-ray: The Devil's Trap

Released in 1962, František Vláčil’s The Devil’s Trap (Ďáblova past) is the first in a loose trilogy of historical epics, the second instalment of which (Marketa Lazarová) is often cited as among the greatest of all Czech films.Shorter and sparer...

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First Person: Pavel Šporcl on Paganini and the Czech violin tradition

It is taken for granted today that Paganini is almost a God-like figure for violinists. After all, he epitomises the ultimate virtuoso figure, both as someone whose technique outshone (so we are told!) every other player of his time, and who oozed...

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Smetana Trio, Wigmore Hall / Minerva Piano Trio, Christ Church Kensington review - spirits of delight

Comparisons might have been odious between three of the world's most cultured players – pianist Jitka Cechová, violinist Jan Talich and cellist Jan Páleníček of the Smetana Trio – and the young, British-based Minerva Piano Trio (Annie Yim...

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