Josef Čermák: Festive performance of Smetana´s "My Country" (Má vlast) in Toronto

Rubrika: Publicistika – Zajímavosti

Toronto Philharmonia, Kerry Stratton, Richard Krpac and My Country

Toronto Philharmonia is a leading Toronto orchestra, Kerry Stratton serves as its musical director, Richard Krpac is the Consul General of the Czech Republic in Toronto and all of them worked hard to offer to the Toronto Czechs a magnificent evening. And not to Czechs only.There were more people of other than Czech or Slovak origin listening to the Toronto rendition of Má Vlast than Czechs and Slovaks.
Copyright ©Jan Rotbauer
The concert took place on September 18, 2008 at the George Weston Hall, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. It was introduced by Richard Krpac, by one of thest best speeches he delivered in Toronto. He speaks softly but you hear him quite clearly everywhere (my explanation: he not only knows how to use his voice, but his mictophone as well), the flow of his speech is rather monotonous, but some inner tension in the makeup of his voice holds your attention. And he obviously loves MA VLAST (as well as his country):

We came here today to commemorate the Prague Spring 1968, We came here today to pay tribute to the late Thomas Bata jr. and we came here today to enjoy My country, one of the most touching expressions of love to homeland ever made by a composer. I would not surprise those of you who know me well, if I say that I love MY COUNTRY. And I am not talking about the symphony, at least not yet.
At the same time, I hold YOUR COUNTRY close to my heart too.
Not only because it is a pleasant place to work and live. Not only because not too many things in life can compare to Labor Day weekend spent on a canoe in the middle of Algonquin Park. And not only because Canada in my eyes combines the best of the worlds I know – Europe and US with little spice of every single other nation there is.
But also because it was Canada, which helped my countrymen, time and time again, whenever MY COUNTRY - Czechoslovakia was in trouble.
Be it in 1968, after Soviet tanks killed the little hope called Prague Spring, when many Czechs, among them Karel Ancerl and Joe Skvorecky found new home in Toronto.
Be it after 1948, when communists took over and thousands of Czechs were forced to flee, among them Jan Rubes, Otto Jelinek and Dr. Cermak.
Or, if I should go even further, be it in 1938 when Joe Schlesinger, Oscar Morawetz and Tomas Bata fled from the Nazi regime.
It was YOUR COUNTRY, Canada, who welcomed them all, gave them second home and second opportunity. And many of them seized it. Tomas Bata, whom tonight´s performance is dedicated to, stands out here, as he would anywhere. He will stay in my memory forever as the always tall standing, proud man with incredible energy, kindness in his heart and witty sense of humor. He undoubtedly will be missed by many of us.
There is one more person in here, who loves MY COUNTRY, and who is directly responsible for bringing it closer to you - Maestro Kerry Stratton. As he says: "There is something about the peculiar Czech melancholy which I find distinctly Irish," adding, "Somehow, in Prague, I feel as if they know me. I am at home."
It was only year ago, when the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs awarded Maestro Stratton with the prestigious Gratias Agit Award, given in the past among others to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, or again Tomas Bata. They know you there, and you are at home there, Mr. Stratton.
As much as I love MY COUNTRY, at the same time I humbly have to confess that my emotions can hardly match the depth of the feelings which Bedrich Smetana describes in his symphony. And it is Copyright ©Jan Rotbauer always extraordinary, sentimental voyage, to be taken across the lush valleys, little brooks and cute villages with him.
I wish you to enjoy every single note of this ride - and I wish you to feel at home at MY COUNTRY, as much as I, and many of my compatriots feel at home at YOURS.

"Nor did Maestro Stratton stayed strictly with his batton, introducing each of the symphonic poems with a few words, drawing the historical background and - before performing with his orchestra individual symphonic poems - offering a few musical excerpts. And if Krpac's speech clearly demonstrated his love for his country, the explanations and - even more eloquently - his conducting of Toronto Philharmonia offered testimony to Stratton's love of Smetana's music and his knowledge of Czech history. And of course Maestro Stratton is hardly a stranger either in Prague or in Czech Republic, having conducted the Czech Philharmonic (I believe it was in Český Krumlov) and appearaning (among other venues) in Karlovy Vary.

The evening, attended by representatives of the Provincial government and the City of Toronto, was one of the finest we witnessed in Toronto in the last several years. 

       FOTO Copyright ©Jan Rotbauer

Tento článek byl v Pozitivních novinách poprvé publikován 27. 09. 2008.