MFKH 2022 headline

Saturday, June 4 / 9:00 p.m. / Corpus Christi Chapel


František Gregor Emmert: Symphony for Solo Violin Ecce homo

Milan Pala – violin


An evening bringing together two unjustly omitted exponents of the Czech music scene: Brno-based composer František Emmert, who died seven years ago; and violinist Milan Pala. A symphony for violin solo projecting a philosophical reflection on the last things in the human fate.


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The large-scale musical tableau, or perhaps more precisely, symphony for violin, Ecce Homo!, by the Brno-based composer, František Emmert (1940-2015), conveys in a condensed form the creative message left by this remarkable albeit somewhat underrated composer. His first work for solo violin, it was written at the behest of violinist Milan Pala, then still a student of the Janáček Academy in Brno. Incidentally, Pala has remained to this day the only artist to have this extremely exacting composition in their repertoire.

František Gregor Emmert, a native of the Sudeten region in northern Bohemia, studied initially at the Prague Conservatory (piano with Lev Esch, and composition with Jaroslav Řídký). He then furthered his composition schooling with Jan Kapr and Miloslav Ištvan at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts. Brno became his home for the rest of his life, as well as being the place where he pursued his career in education as a professor of composition at the Janáček Academy. His compositional output is extensive, encompassing twenty-six symphonies, instrumental concertos, cantatas and oratorios, as well as incidental music (e.g., for Brno´s theatres Husa na provázku and Mahen Drama Stage). His musical idiom, which is best characterized as postmodern, is an organic blend of elements of New Music with earlier compositional techniques.

A delicate and sensitive artist, Emmert would welcome inspiration coming from interpreters as well as from his own students. That was also how Milan Pala became his “appointed artist”. The violinist has regarded Emmert as one of the most important people in his life. The composition Ecce Homo (its original title is a translation borrowed from the authorized Slovak version of the Bible) is described by Pala as enormously difficult. It delves deep into a wide variety of previously unexplored possibilities of the solo instrument, such as multitone chords, achieving an exceptional degree of expressiveness even in comparatively quiet passages. This is also why the hourlong composition leaves the listener no time to become aware of its length.

The three-movement work whose individual parts are linked without an interruption was first performed by Milan Pala shortly after its completion, on 9 June, 2005, in one of Brno´s Evangelical churches.

                                                                                                                     sleeve-note: Dita Hradecká / translation: Ivan Vomáčka

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