We took a last look at Prague as the RLPO coaches headed off. I can’t think of anything negative to say about this wonderful city and must admit to missing it already. There is talk of us going back soon.
Bring it on I say!
This is the church of St Cyril and St Methodius. The pictures are taken as the RLPO bus passed by on the way to Prague station. It is a National Monument to Czech war heroes. A group of Czech Nationalists were trained in England to assassinate the Nazi Governor, Heydrich. They parachuted in to Prague had a shoot-up and threw a bomb at Heidrich’s car. It missed but blew the door off causing Heidrich to die of septicaemia. The long and short of it is that that Nazis went on the warpath, chased the Czech Nationalist into the church. The Nazis had to withdraw due to the gun fire from the Czechs and the Czechs holed up in the crypt. The Nazis tried everything , including throwing bombs into the crypt and even forcing the fire brigade to flood out the crypt through the little window below! You can still see the bullet holes around the window. The Nationalists eventually committed suicide rather than get caught…
Here is the hatch, through which the Nazis attempted to bomb the Czech Nationalists, drown them etc. The bravery of these guys is really quite inspiring and humbling.We need not have rushed to get to the train station, as it happened, because the train itself, meant to be a Pendolino, was cancelled and we got a much older model 45 minutes later instead!
I have a Japanese wife and I am always curious to see products like these, especially in far away places such as Prague. This is one of the snacks we grazed on as the train made it’s way towards our next concert destination, the Ostrava Janacek International Festival. Ostrava is both the place of birth and death of the completely unique and brilliant Czech composer Leos Janacek.
We arrived in Ostrava and our coaches were waiting for the relatively short journey to our magnificently named Imperial Hotel. We had stayed in this hotel previously and it is also a respected school for chefs so we were anticipating terrific food, as before.
Actually, we couldn’t resist sampling a little of this establishment’s board of fayre prior to work. I chose this rather attractive asparagus salad, garnished with daisies. It was indeed delicious as expected. I was looking forward to the meal we had booked for after the concert!
Directly opposit the Imperial Hotel stands the State Opera, the Dvorak Theatre. A rather attractive looking building.Alan and Ian had already arrived with the RLPO lorry at the concert venue, the Culture Centre. They had endured a four and a half hour journey by road from Prague to Ostrava to get the concert platform ready for our arrival sometime later.
One piece of very good news was the little bar at the back of the Culture Centre was still there. The last time we came (15 years ago), eight ‘pints’ of fine Czech beer in the Harley Bar was around the same price as one pint in London! It wasn’t quite as cheap this time but two beers were still only 50 crowns, about 70p I think. Not bad…This the front of the rather forbidding, communist built Culture Centre. Plans are afoot to build a new state-of-the-art culture complex here in Ostrava but I believe the development is on hold pending finance.
We spent about forty minutes rehearsal; twenty on the Brahms Piano Concerto no.1 in D minor and about twenty minutes on Elgar Symphony no.1 in E-flat major. Everything seemed tickety-boo so we finished for an early dinner break.
Interestingly, our incredible soloist, the internationally renowned pianist Paul Lewis, is a Liverpool lad. He hails from Huyton, from a non-musical background. He entered Chethams’ School of Music as a cellist and became one of the world’s foremost and most in-demand pianists. He was a student of Alfred Brendel.
This guy, Veruslav Lanca, played with us as forth trombone when we toured the Czech Republic in 2000. He played fourth trombone in Janacek Sinfonietta in Ostrava (the superb stage band in that performance were from Brno). He joined us between the rehearsal and performance to say hello and to reminisce. It is always a pleasure when this happens, where ever around the world. Veruk, as he is known, plays in the Janacek Symphony Orchestra here in Ostrava. Lovely guy.
Once again the concert was a resounding success. The audience went crazy for Paul Lewis, who played Schubert as an encore; selected from a recent album of his. They also enjoyed the Elgar and took to foot stamping as well as applauding the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. After the performance, we all headed back on the RLPO coaches to dine at the amazing restaurant in the Imperial Hotel. The trumpet section had reserved a table for ourselves…
A cracking tour! It has been very successful musically but also very rewarding culturally. We are always glad to get home but the RLPO has a soft soft for the Czech Republic.