Verneri Pohjola at Dobršská brána 2022

Verneri Pohjola at Dobršská brána 2022

Festival Dobršská brána 2022, Dobrš, Friday August 19, 2022

The programme of the sixth edition of the Dobršská brána festival, focusing on the royal jazz instrument – the trumpet, promised a number of powerful musical experiences, enhanced by the magical environment of the village of Šumava. Traditionally, the festival was opened by the presenter Michaela Ditrichová and the director Ivo Kraml in the beautiful Dobrš Church of the Annunciation, where we were glad to cool down from the tropical mugginess outside. The announced cold front added to our Friday musical experience.

The first, intimate performance of the festival in the beautifully lit Dobrš church was played by a distinctive duo of Slovak trumpeter Oskar Török and Czech sound performer Michal Rataj. Their ethereal music, presenting their recently released Letters from Sounds, completely filled the church space thanks to the quadrophonic sound system. The conversations of Oskar Török’s virtuoso trumpet with Michal Rataj’s interactive electronics and keyboards perfectly tuned the audience for more unusual performances at Dobršská brána.

Michal Kratochvíl: Michal Rataj played the interaction with his electro gadgets, on which Oskar Török grafted long tones that soared through the space in the beautifully lit church. It was as if this music was made to be presented in such places. Oskar crowned the enchanting moments by singing a psalm and Michal underlined it by playing the church organ. This site-specific performance was a pleasant surprise and it was definitely an impressive moment. Oskar then settled down at the keyboard and single-handedly managed to play more trumpet, while the sermon began to echo from the samples. The music from the album, mostly improvised live anyway, shifted a bit due to this spiritual space and sounded quite different to me than when listening to the album. I must also mention the surround sound achieved by placing additional speakers in the back of the church. I really enjoyed the opening concert of the festival.

Oskar TOROK & Michal RATAJ, DOBRSSKA BRANA 19.8.2022

For the second concert of Friday’s programme, we walked through the Dobrš gate to the castle, where the Czech-Polish Štěpánka Balcarová Quartet, consisting of Štěpánka Balcarová – trumpet, flugelhorn; Nikola Kolodziejczyk – piano; Jaromír Honzák – double bass and Grzegorz Masłowski – drums, were waiting for us on the main festival stage. Their Emotions, purely original compositions by Štěpanka Balcarová, were a perfect follow-up to the first concert in the church. Stylistically refined, the band presented many of Štěpanka’s emotions, while the local loud rooster repeatedly seconded them, which nicely underlined the uniqueness of the festival. You can judge the final Surprise in the video preview below.

Michal Kratochvíl: Štěpánka Balcarová, in the premiere of an international band, also presented a completely new program based on Emotions. The first song was Sadness, as most of the audience probably guessed, and the next one we can imagine and guess ourselves. The songs intertwine and build on each other without a break, so it is such an emotional hurricane, from sadness to hope, then again nostalgia is replaced by joy, and I must say that I liked the angry one the most. During the concert she was also trusting, angry, scared or disgusted. The last song was Surprise, and that was literally when both the audience and the performers were surprised by a crowing rooster. Sure to be great in a radio recording of the concert.

Stepanka BALCAROVA Quartet, DOBRSSKA BRANA 19.8.2022

The main star of the evening, the Finnish Verneri Pohjola Quartet, presenting their latest excellent album The Dead Don’t Dream, brought contemporary jazz of the European extra class to Dobrše. Verneri Pohjola – trumpet, Tuomo Prättälä – piano, Antti Lötjönen – double bass, Mika Kallio – drums delighted the large audience with their beautiful, original music. Even the occasional rain did not disturb the very intense experience at the colourfully illuminated Dobrš castle. The enthusiastic spectators stayed in the auditorium for the entire closing double song Argirro and Suspended, during which a massive cloudburst started, see video clip below to its end. An unforgettable experience!

Michal Kratochvíl: Verneri Pohjola was the dark horse of the festival for me and I was probably most looking forward to his performance. Given the weather forecast and the scary looking rain radar it was clear that something was going to happen, the only question was when exactly. At first there was no storm, but just a little shower and the weather gave rise to another magical and unforgettable concert at the Dobrš festival. Songs from the beautiful album The Dead Don’t Dream were played, but not in the order they are recorded on the album. By the third Voices heard played, we were introduced to a strained trumpet so that the contrast of the disembodied band could dilute this intensity. Wonderful! And it even stopped raining for a while! The misty haze, the impressively lit castle, the dreamy music, it was a recipe for a wonderful evening. And it started to drizzle again. In a faster song, a furiously soloing trumpet and drums try to chase the rain away, then they return to the form of the song and resume all together again, finishing the Wilder Brother track beautifully melodically. However, they couldn’t chase the rain away, on the contrary, they summoned a full-blown thunderstorm. Ropes of water began to roll down from the heavens, completing the natural backdrop to the last two songs combined. The musicians themselves from the stage couldn’t believe their eyes what a downpour it had become and were grateful that we had lasted until the end. Even though most of us at least with soaked shoes and pants. But it was worth it!


We will long remember our escape from the castle through the Dobrš gate along the path changed by a downpour into a stream to a cosy pub.