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Strings of Autumn is an international music festival held every year in Prague, Czech Republic. It features domestic and international artists from the worlds of jazz, classical, world, and experimental music, and has built its reputation on eclectic programming and special concert projects. Each year, its programme is divided into three 'cycles': Luminaries (featuring big international names), Crossover, and Inspiration. Since 2008, the festival has also included a 'Spotlight' concert showcasing up-and-coming young musicians. The festival is noted for its varied portfolio of venues, and often presents artists in venues with which they might not be traditionally associated. In 2010, the festival celebrates its 15th anniversary.


Early Years

The festival was founded in 1996 by students Marek Vrabec and Martin Pechanec, who were asked by then-president Vaclav Havel to come up with a programme of concerts at Prague Castle. The concerts in the first years of the festival were held in various venues within the castle complex, most of which the public had not had access to under the former Communist regime. Although the first year's series of concerts largely featured local musicians, the second year saw the festival bring its first internationally-renound artist, saxophonist Jan Garbarek, to Prague for his first performance in the Czech Republic. He was followed in subsequent years by a number of internaitonal artists making their first appearances in the country, among them Michael Nyman, Cecil Taylor, and Ute Lemper.


2003 - 2004

In 2003, Vaclav Havel stepped down as president, to be replaced by Vaclav Klaus. Over the years of Havel's presidency, Strings of Autumn had established itself as a major festival and had built up a loyal audience. The 2003 festival had been the most successful yet, featuring performances by Magdalena Kozena and Oleg Maisenberg among others.

The change of president brought a change of cultural policy at the castle, as the new president sought to distance himself from Havel's initiatives. Strings of Autumn was told it would no longer receive the financial support of the Castle nor be able to use its venues. The move was met with outrage, both on the part of audiences and the local music media. 'Harmonie' magazine wrote: 'The Castle administration deserves an anti-award for this. It has decided to cancel one of the most interesting projects - in terms of artistic programming and performance - that exist in this country: Strings of Autumn.'[1]

Suddenly finding itself without money or anywhere to stage its concerts, Strings remarkably managed to go ahead with the 2004 festival, albeit in greatly reduced form. Of nine originally-planned concerts, three took place, including a performance by the Kronos Quartet at Prague's Municipal House.


Recent Years

Reinvented as an independent non-profit organisation, Strings of Autumn quickly established partnerships with major concert venues in Prague, such as the Rudolfinum, Municipal House, Estates Theatre, and the Crossroads Church. These stages have since become synonymous with the festival. Since 2005, Strings of Autumn has been back at full strength, and recent years have seen appearances by Cassandra Wilson, Regina Carter, Brad Mehldau, Natalie Dessay, and Ian Bostridge. The 2010 festival will feature Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, Dianne Reeves, and Julia Fischer, among others.


The Spring Strings Gala

In May 2010, Strings of Autumn held its first-ever donors' gala concert at the art-nouveau Municipal House in Prague. Bobby McFerrin performed a special solo concert at the event, which was among the first of its kind in the Czech Republic.

Critical Reception

Strings of Autumn has been widely praised in the media. Czech Television has called Strings 'this country's most exciting music festival.'[2] while The Prague Post claims 'for sheer variety and vitality, nothing in Prague touches Strings of Autumn.'[3] The festival has also achieved international media recognition, and in 2010 was featured in the New York Times.


References

  1. Harmonie magazine
  2. Otakar Svoboda, CT24, May 2, 2007
  3. Frank Kuznik, The Prague Post, September 24th 2008, http://www.praguepost.com/archivescontent/6985-winning-combinations.html

External links

  • Official website: [1]
  • Spring Strings Gala website: [2]
  • New York Times profile: [3]


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