Music in a village of violin makers

St.Wencelslas Church in Paseky, photo: Google Maps

It isn't often that we bring you a report from a small village church in the mountains. But Paseky nad Jizerou is special. The village is on the western edge of the Krkonose Mountains, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Prague, and every year, just for a few days in August, some of the Czech Republic's top classical musicians gather there. I'm joined by David Vaughan who was at the event. David why was the event held in Paseky?

St.Wencelslas Church in Paseky,  photo: Google Maps
"It has a tradition of violin-making and that goes back to the first half of the nineteenth century. And the first Paseky violin-maker was a man called Venceslav Metelka and he founded a dynasty. His whole family - all his children including his daughter - all became violin-makers, and to this day the Krkonose school of violin-making is famous. It's a tradition that's no longer continued there, but elsewhere there are violins made in the tradition."

So did this violin-making inspire the origins of this festival as well?

"Well yes. It is an extraordinarily musical village. There's one local family, the Waldmann family, and Josef Waldmann, way back in the 1950s decided to found a little museum of violin-making in the village, and he's a musician. His son is also a musician. He plays the double bass in the Czech Philharmonic, and he decided, at the beginning of the 1980s, in defiance of the Communist authorities, that he would come regularly to the little church in Paseky and that he and his friends would perform at the Sunday Mass. And these weren't just any old performers, these were his fellow members of the Czech Philharmonic. And so the quality of the music was extremely high. And on the basis of that they founded this tradition of music in Paseky. They were so good that the Communists couldn't really do much to say - we don't want this. It would have been very embarrassing for them."

So it seems that now you've had a very rare opportunity to hear some great music over the weekend. What was the atmosphere like?

"Well it was amazing, because there's this very pretty little Baroque church and you're hearing the most fantastic performances. You just come out and you look down into these misty valleys and it's incredibly atmospheric. One last thing which I should mention is that the Paseky festival has also inspired one of the top contemporary Czech composers, a man called Frantisek Thuri, who's a great lover of the Baroque, and for this weekend's event he actually composed a piece of music (Divertimento for Strings), which we heard on Saturday morning for the first time in the church."