Czech organist makes mark at prestigious Bach competition

Pavel Svoboda, photo: Honza Ježdík / Official website of Pavel Svoboda

Czech organist Pavel Svoboda is among the winners of this years’ International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition Leipzig, Germany, one of the most prestigious events of its kind. The 28-year-old musician succeeded in competition with 27 organists from around the world and is the first Czech to win the competition in 36 years. RF has more:

Pavel Svoboda, photo: Honza Ježdík / Official website of Pavel Svoboda
Czech organist Pavel Svoboda is one of the nine musicians who gained this year’s “Bach Prize Winner” title at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition, which aims is to single out the great Bach interpreters of tomorrow.

This year, the competition was held in three categories: organ, voice and violoncello. After passing four rounds successfully, the Czech musician placed second, behind Japanese Kazuki Tomita and ahead of Alina Nikitina from Russia.

Svoboda, a laureate of the Prague Spring International Music Competition 2013 studied the organ at the Pardubice Conservatory and the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under the direction of Jaroslav Tůma. He says that participation in the Johann Sebastian Bach Competition has always been one of his goals:

“The competition has always been my dream, because I love Bach’s music. Also, Leipzig is not so far from Prague, you don’t have to fly there, they have great instruments and the competition has a very high quality. And since I am planning to eventually study all of Bach’s repertoire, it was a natural choice for me.”

The final round of the competition took place in the Thomaskirche church, where Johann Sebastian Bach himself worked as a music director from 1723 until his death in 1750. Some of the compositions on the programme, such as the famous Passacaglia C minor, were actually composed in that church.

The contestants could choose between two organs: a Romantic one by Wilhelm Sauer from the end of 19th century and a special "Bach organ" which was designed to look similar to the old organ on which the composer had played.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Pavel Svoboda says that as a Czech player, he was slightly disadvantaged, because there are no organs of such a high quality in the Czech Republic:

“The situation for organists in the Czech Republic is not as favourable as in Germany, where they have a professional network. In the Czech Republic, organists are often unpaid and the instruments are often played on by amateurs, who don’t know how to look after them and can cause irreversible damage. That’s why we established an association called Pro varhany, which initiates professional restoration and care of historical organs in East Bohemia, where I come from."

Pavel Svoboda is also the artistic director of the F.L.Věk music festival in the East Bohemian town of Dobruška, which aims to professionalise classical concerts in the region.