Yilian Cañizares at Dobršská brána 2023

Yilian Cañizares at Dobršská brána 2023

International Music Festival Dobrš Gate 2023, Dobrš, Saturday, August 19, 2023

The morning began with a workshop led by Scott Tixier, a violin professor at the University of North Texas. In the hall of the former U Dražných pub, he used his violin and nimble fingers to explain the three fundamental elements of music: melody, harmony, and rhythm, followed by the endless possibilities of improvisation. He engaged not only two audience members with violins and a few singers but eventually most of those present in collaboration. It was a very pleasant and interesting music lesson.

Michal Kratochvíl: Scott Tixier kicked off the second day in Dobrš with a workshop that enthralled both the attending musicians and the rest of us. Fortunately, at least two violinists were present in the audience, allowing the workshop or masterclass to include practical involvement from musicians and the sharing of experiences. Scott shared with us what was important to him and explained how harmony, rhythm, and melody work, and how musicians should discover them on their own. Naturally, he managed to engage the remaining audience members as well, leading us all in a relaxed singing and improvising session with the presented motifs. Then, out of nowhere, the police showed up, and the fun was over. But let’s not dwell on that any further. The workshop was prematurely concluded, and the musicians (Scott and his brother Tony) were a bit startled. Fortunately, it didn’t unsettle them because afterward, they treated us to a phenomenal performance on the main stage by the castle.

An annual part of the Dobrš Gate festival is also the vernissage of artworks in the CoCo Gallery at Dobrš Castle. This year’s exhibition, ‚I TICHÁ, I SILNÁ,‘ featuring the works of three artists, Eliška Jakubíčková, Josefína Dušková, and Jakub Stretti, was focused on expression, spontaneous, purely individualistic expressions of artists who outwardly convey their feelings and emotions through their works. As usual, the exhibition was perfectly prepared and introduced by curator Lucie Šiklová. It provided an interesting aesthetic experience on two floors of Dobrš Castle and offered many opportunities for contemplation. I recommend visiting it on occasion.

Michal Kratochvíl: This year’s exhibition of artworks, to which we eventually moved after this unpleasant incident, appealed to me, especially the sculptures placed in the gallery’s room.

The first two Saturday concerts took place in the richly illuminated church. Highly intimate and even spiritual was the performance of the Swiss duo Paul Giger – violin, viola d’amore, and Marie-Louise Dahler – harpsichord. Paul Giger’s compositions from his latest CD ‚Ars Moriendi‘ brought us closer to the fundamental theme of the transience of life, death, and renewal, blending Bach’s music with original compositions influenced by traditional Swiss folklore. An unusual musical delight for attentive listeners.

Michal Kratochvíl: Then it was time for lunch, and for me, unfortunately, the almost entirely missed performance of Paul Giger and Marie-Louise Dahler. The afternoon summer heat and a full stomach took their toll, and I was unable to maintain my focus during this performance, with my eyelids constantly drooping. However, towards the end, I heard several cries of ‚bravo‘ directly from the audience, and the applause didn’t wane. So, the issue was likely with my reception.

The second Saturday church concert, this time featuring a Czech duo, Vít Nermut – violin, fidula, and Michal Hrubý – bass clarinet, flute, mostly brought us cheerful compositions inspired by medieval themes from Czech, Italian, and Spanish contexts, elevated to a new level thanks to contemporary, free improvisation. For the last piece of their performance, the gentlemen also invited Mrs. Maria-Louise Dahler to her harpsichord. Judge for yourself in the video clip from 06:44 how well they harmonized together.

Michal Kratochvíl: A similar scenario unfortunately repeated itself for me during the next church performance. The medieval music presented by the duo Nermut and Hrubý once again didn’t resonate with me, so I decided to assess the situation and started gathering my strength for the upcoming performances of the festival.

A truly unprecedented experience awaited us behind the church, near the Romanesque bell tower. The sunlit, grassy hill in the semi-shade of tall trees was the ideal setting for the musically kinetic improvisation of the violin trio Anna Romanovská – Jana Havláková – Milan Jakeš, along with the elegant dancer Jana Látalová. Their project ‚Unexpected Green,‘ a free improvisation on the theme of ‚sonorous movement, animated sound, freedom, inspiration, solitude, support, self-sufficiency, now, green,‘ was introduced by Michaela Ditrichová, adding another joyful Šumava legend. Then, Jana Havláková played her violin with strings alternately woven between the violin strings, inspiring Jana Látalová to begin her first improvised dance steps. Gradually, Anna Romanovská and Milan Jakeš joined in the free improvisation. After many surprising movements of the performers around the chapel and intriguing musical and choreographic ideas, Jana Látalová even involved two audience members sitting on a bench under the oak tree, styling them as a boat with Milan Jakeš in the role of a paddler using his violin as an oar. Truly extraordinary and captivating experience.

Michal Kratochvíl: From the performance near the bell tower, we could expect something along these lines: A musically kinetic improvisation on the theme of ‚sonorous movement, animated sound, freedom, inspiration, solitude, support, self-sufficiency, now, green,‘ which will be presented at the festival in the context of natural scenery and the Romanesque bell tower, promises a captivating experience. And so it happened, and this intriguing performance already held my attention. The combination of live improvisation with modern dance was enjoyable, and it definitely worked as a great addition to the festival program.

After passing through the Dobrš Gate, the final three concerts awaited us on the stage by the castle. It was kicked off by the S.V.A. Trio (Alexey Aslamas – violin, Vladan Malinjak – viola, Šimon Marek – cello), bolstered by trumpeter Miroslav Hloucal and drummer Miloš Dvořáček. Their excellent joint performance, named ‚Urban Fusion,‘ filled with intriguing original melodic ideas, exciting rhythms, and exemplary ensemble playing, smoothly brought us back to the beloved jazz groove. SVA5 provided perfect support, elevating the festival to a higher level.

Michal Kratochvíl: One might say that I know the S.V.A. Trio (in this case, expanded to a quintet) like the back of my hand as I’ve now seen them in Dobrš for the fifth time in the last year. Therefore, their performance couldn’t surprise me in any way, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. This lineup has risen to the forefront of our music scene, and rightly so. Their compositions are sufficiently interesting and original and have the ability to captivate the audience. A successful concert.

The French sibling duo of violinist Scott Tixier, a five-time Grammy-winning professor living in Texas, and pianist Tony Tixier captivated the numerous audience with their very understandable and often virtuosic improvisations, showcasing the telepathic connection between the twins. Their truly first-class collaboration while interpreting mostly well-known standards brought us great joy, significantly elevated the musical level of the festival, and wonderfully set the stage for the final, often unfamiliar performance of the evening, the trio led by Cuban violinist Yilian Cañizares.

Michal Kratochvíl: However, the main program for me began with the performance of the Tixier brothers‘ duo. As it turned out, the twins still have a strong connection between them, even though they reportedly haven’t played together for 13 years. Joy and love emanated from their performance. Their rich improvisations and interactions, accompanied by what seemed like effortless virtuosity (as Scott admitted during the workshop, he used to practice the violin for up to 10 hours a day in his youth), couldn’t leave us indifferent, and the evening truly took off. The love radiating from the stage did not go unnoticed, and the audience absorbed this energy and returned it. Enthusiastic musicians decided to spontaneously add one more improvisation, even though the organizers had already announced that there was no more time. However, we welcomed it with gratitude and eagerly embraced every idea. Beautiful.

The final concert by Yilian Cañizares & Resilience Trio completely exceeded my, and I dare say, the general expectations of the unusually large audience. The elegant, charismatic violinist and singer Yilian Cañizares from Havana, now based in Switzerland, along with bassist Childo Tomas originally from Mozambique and the energetic Cuban percussionist Ernest Rodriguez, known as Ernesttico, enchanted us with virtuoso playing, spontaneous dancing, and magical singing right from her first dynamic song. Her original compositions skilfully combine Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, and classical music, conveying a message of love, freedom, and unity, elevating the festival atmosphere to unexpected heights. The spontaneous dancing of the majority of the audience during the final songs was clear evidence of that. Moreover, the perfect addition to this feast came from the evening’s other stars, Scott and Tony Tixier, as is customary at a proper jazz festival. It was a magnificent musical celebration!

Michal Kratochvíl: And then came something that perhaps no one expected. The true culmination of the festival in the real sense of the word. Yilian swept Dobrš with her enthusiasm, smile, and beautiful music. The intro touched on racism with a clear message that race can only be defined as human beings. This was followed by (well-known to the Czech audience from last week) Childo Tomas with recitations, and after him, the fantastic Ernesttico took over on percussion. When Yilian started singing along, she literally radiated, and a wave of good mood and positive energy burst into Dobrš, further intensifying the excitement from the already great performance of the twins. Childo blew into a tube, playfully twirled it in the air for the amusement of the audience, and when he finally threw it away, he could fully concentrate on his fretless bass. Yilian delivered an enchanting and utterly convincing performance in Spanish, performing a moving song. After that, they engaged in vocal improvisation with body percussion, and when they picked up their instruments, the piece reached incredible heights. The brilliant show continued as Yilian joined Childo for a dance on stage. They talked to us about the beautiful connection they have not only as musicians but also as people and what they want to convey to us through music: energy and wings. At that moment, Yilian sang like an angel, and Childo showed that he is also a great guitarist. The show goes on, and the main protagonist briefly appears behind the keyboard. Childo plays a solo, and then it’s time for the audience to sing along. Yilian is incredibly spontaneous again, ventures to the edge of the stage to listen, and then takes the stage for a solo while the grateful audience holds the melody. Beautiful moments of a brilliant concert continue in the following percussion solo, where Childo and Yilian dance and encourage Ernesttico. They manage to get the audience to rise and cheer with them. Well, the real climax is yet to come. For the encore, they invite both Tixier brothers, who have been watching the entire concert attentively from backstage. This total improvisation turned out great, and Dobrš had never experienced such a finale. Unbelievable!!!

There’s nothing left but to thank the organizers for the unforgettable experiences from the festival and to congratulate Ivo Kraml, Michaela Ditrichová, and all his collaborators on the well-deserved success of the seventh edition of the unique Dobršská brána festival in the Czech Republic, which once again generously opened the path to the world of contemporary music for us.