Let music and poetry touch you


Music and poetry are closely related, and this connection is the theme of a little known festival hidden among a number of Prague's better promoted events - a chamber music festival bearing the title "Touches of Music and Poetry".

In its sixth year it is still run by only four people. One of them is the festival director Miroslav Matejka.

"The festival aims to feature young musicians and poets, young ensembles. The festival is focused on the chamber music of Bohuslav Martinu. It has two series; a musical series and a literature/musical series. For the literature series we feature Czech as well as international poets. For example right now we are going to have a concert with French poetry. You'll hear poems by very well known French poets, such as Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and others."

In almost all the festival concerts, music is interlaced with poetry. Although the majority of performers are Czechs, the number of ensembles from across Europe is rising. Jan Riedlbauch is a flute player and at the same time takes care of the program of the festival.

"We decided to put especially Czech poets in the program - modern poets above all - and give them a chance to be compared with the famous Czech and world composers. This year we organize seven concerts. We have invited some excellent ensembles. For example Ensemble Calliopee from Paris, we heard the Sonatori Ensemble, Petr Brok - flute and Berthold Fritz - piano, they are from Germany. Speaking about poetry, we will have Lumir Vanek who is an excellent bassoon player and also a good poet. Then Lubor Jenik - it is excellent poetry inspired by American poet Ferlinghetti."

At Tuesday's festival concert Jan Riedlbauch together with guitar player Miloslav Klaus featured mostly French composers. Their music was accompanied by French poetry recitation performed by a front Czech actress Tatjana Medvecka. Poetry recitation is nothing new for her.

"I've been trying to keep in touch with poetry for a very long time. When I was a girl - already some long, long years ago (laughs) - I used to work like this. It is very pleasant for me, because I needn't know it by heart. At this moment I have some nine pieces in my head and I am studying the tenth one. So it's quite pleasant to have your desk covered with a script and poetry. This is the way we do it; it is sort of classical or traditional or however you would call it. We don't act it, it's just music and poetry. So I needn't perform anything, I just stand there trying to transmit what the author has written, that's all."

Tatjana Medvecka likes the people who come to classical music concerts.

"I think generally, people who are used to listen to classical music or to 'serious' music are a very good audience in general. Unfortunately, thanks to the media, these sort of 'shows' or whatever you call it, they become more stupid and vulgar, they are getting lower and lower.... Sometimes when I act in a spectacle - in a theatrical performance - I see that people react on things which are ticklish or something of that sort. But it's different with poetry, and I am happy for that."

Speaking very good English and also French, she is a passionate poetry reader, but it's hard for her to choose her single favorite author.

"I have chosen these pieces of poetry myself, so I have to say I love all of them. I love very much Jacques Prevert, I like very much Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire and all of that. I think they are also very well translated - which is very important. To translate poetry well, it means a bit to create it from the beginning. So I am very proud that the Czech language is comparable, and that we can show to the audience that in Czech it sounds the same and it has the same or perhaps a bit different atmosphere. I like to perform it!"

So if you feel inspired, concerts in the "Touches of Music and Poetry" festival are being held in the Prague Lichtenstein Palace on the Lesser Town Square. But even if you do not make it by January 19 when the last concert takes place, don't worry. The organizers are already preparing next year's festival.