Ostrava Days: a czech music festival

0821_Jennifer+Walshe_12George Grella at Music and Literature:

Taken with opening night, the Marathon offered evidence of the sophistication of the audiences in Ostrava. With the Institute and all the musicians and composers around, the crowd of spectators that gathered for each performance always featured a substantial cadre of people involved in Ostrava Days. But the festival also draws a dedicated local crowd, and faces quickly grow familiar and become a welcome part of the social landscape.

The musicians listen with focus and interest, of course, but so do the local audiences. Their attention is absolute, and their reactions are adoring—everything and everyone gets multiple ovations. At times it feels like being inside Aki Kaurismäki's film La Vie de Bohème, especially when Rodolfo and Marcel sit down with utmost seriousness to hear composer Schaunard's latest avant-garde work, which is a “classic” combination of random bashing at the keyboard, yelling through a bullhorn, and throwing things around.

When the music is bad—inevitable, but a far less frequent occurrence in Ostrava than anywhere else—this can seem comical; but no less so than at the typical classical concert, where even dull and insincere thinking and playing are rewarded with self-regarding standing ovations. And the locals are no rubes: they have the sophistication and the patience to listen to and through things that are new to them, and the more unfamiliar or unusual the concept, the more they reach out to it. They’ve been enjoying this through eight iterations now (the first installment took place in 2001), and they’ve been able to hear more meaningful, important, and constructively challenging modern music than audiences virtually anywhere else. Ostrava is building a musical history, and telling a musical tale.

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