Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast is a cornerstone of the Czech Republic’s musical culture, heard in everything from celebrations and funerals to advertisements and fireworks shows. Six composers pay homage to their country and Smetana’s symphonic poems, reimagining each piece with their individual styles. The Brno Contemporary Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, navigates the different styles with ease, handily uniting each piece into a cohesive whole.
Today, Pavel is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his vivid dressing room dreams, and the importance he sees in gratifying work…
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
Am I an artist? I didn’t notice. It is true I was from my childhood attracted to theatre and stage. I remember I wanted to “say something,” and I still want to share my feelings and my attitude with others. Maybe it is the true root and a substance of being an artist. So from this point of view, I realized I wanted to be an artist very early on.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
Sometimes an absolutely usual performance becomes absolutely unusual – in both a positive and negative meaning. Sometimes something occurs, which is indefinable, between the audience and the performers and you know that this is IT, this is why you are doing the arts. You can feel everybody is tuned on the same level, the same “wave,” and this is a great feeling. On the other hand, I remember some dreams — rather nightmares — where some strange things happen. E.g.: It is 18:55, the performance starts at 19:00 and I’m still in my dressing room without my trousers trying to turn the button on my shirt collar or tie my bow tie. Time is running out, and I’m not able to go to the stage, because I can’t finish my dressing. It is horrible…
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
I remember I wanted to be a violin maker and also a glassblower. Generally, I can say, the older I am, the more importance I see in such a job, where you can see the product of that work. No “virtual” result, but something that you can see immediately after finishing that work. Have you ever cut wood? Have you ever mowed the lawn? Have you ever built a house (or almost a part of it of course)? If you have done something similar, then you can understand me…
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
There are some moments in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth parts of the album. I like the album completely. I love the diversity. Each of these six pieces is absolutely different, from the almost popular Vltava through the minimalistic Castle and unison, A Short Letter To Bedřich Smetana untill the symphonic Blaník. Also quite important for me is that I know all the composers personally. I can say their music is very characteristic of them. Although you don’t know them personally, you can meet them via their music very closely. Let’s meet and talk in spite of the long-distance (geographically as well as culturally) through the music.
What does this album mean to you personally?
First of all, it was one of the few activities we could do during the covid period. Performances were prohibited, and meeting with more than 30 people was impossible. For me and for our ensemble, it was a very nice opportunity to work, to play music, and to do something that is meaningful. I’d be happy if the album pleases everybody who listens to it.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
This is not any joke, yet this is not anything serious. Everything is oscillating I think. This “new” cycle is no kind of homage and no kind of any irony. It is just music mirroring the personal experiences of the composers with the genial Smetana’s music. But those who don’t know Smetana’s original music, never mind. The music is just music regardless of the history, feelings, society, etc… enjoy it.