State Awards presented on the site of Communist leader's mausoleum

Marek Kopelent, photo: CTK

This week the 71-year-old Czech composer, Marek Kopelent, was given a Czech State Award for his lifelong contribution to Czech music. The award renews a tradition going back to the 1920s, that was interrupted after the fall of communism when it had been associated more with political loyalties than real artistic ability.

Marek Kopelent,  photo: CTK
Before the war the State Awards were among the most prestigious honours granted to Czechoslovakia's writers, musicians and artists, and Marek Kopelent was an apt choice to receive the freshly renewed music award as one of the giants of the post-war classical music scene. He is also a composer who made no secret of his dislike of the totalitarian regime. But on receiving the award he said he had mixed feelings, as he felt that the classical musical scene today was being overrun by commercial interests.

Jitka Valova,  photo: CTK
This was also the first year that the State Awards in the categories theatre, and fine art and architecture were renewed since the fall of communism. In the fine arts, the award went to two artists who have almost legendary status here in the Czech Republic, the sisters Jitka and Kveta Valova, who studied before the Second World War under the famous Czech painter Emil Filla. The jury appreciated their human and non-commercial attitude. The award for theatre went to the opera director David Radok, who works both in the Czech Republic and Sweden.

David Radok,  photo: CTK
The awards were presented at the National Monument on Prague's Vitkov Hill, a somewhat unusual choice, given that the huge monument, including a vast equine statue of the Hussite warrior Jan Zizka, has long been neglected and virtually unused. The place used to be a museum, where the embalmed body of the first Czech communist leader Klement Gottwald was placed until it finally began to decay. The presentation was intended as a first step in reviving the monument as a cultural focus in the Czech capital.