Pražský výběr concert marks 30th anniversary of Soviet Army’s departure
This week’s Sunday Music Show features the legendary underground rock band Pražský výběr, who this week held a special concert (together with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra) to mark 30 years since the departure of Soviet troops Czech soil.
Pražský výběr was among the most influential bands to emerge from the so-called Czech New Wave under Communism. They were widely appreciated for their message, clever lyrics and musical virtuosity – an element not always a hallmark of “underground” bands back in the day.
In the 1980s, the Communist authorities largely banned Pražský výběr from performing. After the Velvet Revolution, the band’s popularity exploded as more Czechs actually had a chance to hear them play live.
In July 1991, the Warsaw Treaty was officially dissolved and 36 years of Czechoslovakia’s military alliance with the USSR came to an end. As a consequence, Soviet troops stationed in the country during the 1968 invasion were gradually withdrawn.
Pražský výběr founder and frontman Michael Kocáb, who had entered politics, oversaw the pull-out of Soviet soldiers. To mark the final departure transport of Soviet troops and equipment, the band held a celebratory concert.
At that 1991 concert, Pražský výběr shared a stage with American musician Frank Zappa – once called “the God of the Czech underground”. Their performance of the Zappa compositon ‘A Reggae Improvisation in A major’ was the last song that the Mothers of Invention frontman played in public.
Pražský výběr of course also performed some of their biggest hits – such as ‘Čičolína’, ‘Zubatá’, and ‘Proč jen já’. For the 30th anniversary concert, a number of their compositions, including Straka v hrsti (The Magpie in the Wisp), the title track of their výběr’s first album, were adapted into orchestral form by American conductor Steven Mercurio, who has collaborated with the likes of Chick Corea, Luciano Pavarotti and Sting.