Adam Bałdych & Agata Szymczewska at Dobršská brána 2023

Adam Bałdych & Agata Szymczewska at Dobršská brána 2023

International Music Festival Dobrš Gate 2023, Dobrš, Friday, August 18, 2023

The program of the seventh edition of the Dobršská brána festival, focused on the violin, promised a series of exciting musical experiences, enhanced by the magical environment of the Šumava village and the homely atmosphere of the unprecedented U Dražných pub. The festival was opened by the traditional moderator Michaela Ditrichová and the festival director Ivo Kraml in the Dobrš church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.

To set the Šumava atmosphere before each musical performance at the festival, Michaela Ditrichová read a legend from Ondřej Fibich’s book ‚Prácheňský poklad,‘ which added a very fitting touch to the festival.

The first performance of this year’s festival, held in the beautifully lit church of Dobrš, was presented by the quartet of Slovak violinist Stano Palúch. Alongside his trusted collaborators Marcel Comendant – cimbalom, Peter Korman – double bass, and Michal Fedor – percussion, Stano Palúch introduced his latest project ‚Premeny,‘ in which he transforms melodic folk themes from various regions of Slovakia into his own compositions, primarily through jazz improvisation. The excellent harmony among all members of the quartet and the virtuosity of the violinist and cimbalom player perfectly tuned us in for the upcoming violin-focused performances of the festival.

Michal Kratochvíl: Stano Palúch from Slovakia brought beautiful melodies built on a jazz foundation. The cimbalom added the right touch to compositions based on Slovak folk motifs, and the whole band was a joy to listen to in the beautiful church in Dobrš. The project ‚Premeny‘ doesn’t have an album yet, but hopefully, we won’t have to wait long.

For the second concert of the Friday program, we passed through the Dobrš gate to the castle, where we were pleasantly surprised by the Alois Zatloukal Quartet on the main festival stage. The quartet consisted of Alois Zatloukal – violin, viola, Jan Bára – guitar, Michael Lužný – bass guitar, and Filip Tománek – drums, along with their Rusty Cowboys. Their original compositions captivated the audience with their uniqueness, unconventional instrument lineup, and the considerable enthusiasm of these young and talented musicians, as seen in the video sample below. An excellent prelude to the evening’s main stars from Poland.

Michal Kratochvíl: The Rusty Cowboys left an impression on me with their pleasant Americana sound, invoking the musical spirit of Bill Frisell at his best. Melodic compositions with an aesthetic entirely unfamiliar to Czech audiences. During the concert, Alois alternated between viola and violin, and they played songs like ‚Rust,‘ ‚Cowboy,‘ or ‚Blues for Emily,‘ dedicated to his daughter. ‚Dead Man’s Blues‘ is a well-energized piece where I can clearly hear the blues harmonica. Perhaps we can expect it on their album. In ‚Blue Rider,‘ Alois plays and plucks the violin like a guitar while Jan solos. Overall, it’s the interplay and harmonies between the violin and guitar that make the band so unique. Although Alois is the main composer, it seemed to me that Jan carries most of the songs. As a final note, we heard the lullaby ‚Moonshine Lullaby,‘ and the pleasant performance came to a close. We will eagerly await how this young Czech talent develops.

The Friday program of the seventh Dobrš Gate festival culminated in the long-awaited concert by the extraordinary Adam Bałdych. To start, his quintet: Adam Bałdych – violin, Krzysztof Dys – piano, Marek Konarski – tenor saxophone, Andrzej Święs – double bass, Dawid Fortuna – drums, delighted us with the precise execution of his ‚Poetry.‘ The core of the concert consisted of Adam Bałdych’s original compositions from the ‚Legend‘ project, based on the motifs of composer and violinist Henryk Wieniawski, performed in Dobrš together with classical violin star Agata Szymczewska. Perhaps the video sample below will adequately capture this extraordinary musical experience.

Michal Kratochvíl: Adam Bałdych Quintet & Agata Szymczewska came to Dobrš to present their latest creation, ‚Legend.‘ Right from the beginning, when the quintet played without Agata initially, everything was so beautifully subtle and balanced. The enchanting sound captivated us and showcased Adam’s exquisite violin playing. Marek on the saxophone didn’t rush anywhere and developed his sweetly melodic solo, allowing everyone to come together again in the end and perform the composition brilliantly. Around the third composition, Agata finally appeared on stage, and her classical style immediately contrasted with Adam’s. Initially, she seemed somewhat more assertive in her delivery, which is certainly more typical in the world of classical music. However, she also demonstrated excellent improvisational skills and sensibly integrated herself into the well-rehearsed jazz ensemble. When Adam took the spotlight again, I was completely moved by the beautiful energy emanating from within him. The improvised violin duet convinced us all of the exceptional qualities of both interpreters, and the following piece, ‚Adagio Elegiaque – Part II,‘ introduced with a drum solo, only confirmed that we were witnessing a magnificent performance. The collective improvisation in the spirited passage was truly outstanding (see video sample). To conclude, the monumental ‚Polish Song‘ resonated, a piece that, after Adam’s solo, took on entirely epic dimensions. Beautiful melodies were further enhanced by dynamic interpretation, creating the necessary tension. And, in the very end, ‚Legend‘ was performed. It was truly a delight and a beautiful conclusion to the first day in Dobrš.