Music As a Cure
The Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra
Ostrava is a highly demanded and
successful orchestra whose great
reputation results from brilliant work
of a hundred excellent musicians. We
interviewed the CEO of the Janáček
Philharmonic Orchestra (JFO) Jan Žemla
to find out how the musicians and
orchestra members cope with the
situation related to the pandemics, what
novelties they offer to their audiences and
fans due to (or thanks to) the quarantine,
and what we can expect from them
in the 67th season.
Mr Žemla, the current situation undoubtedly seriously
affects social communication in culture as well. Has it
brought some positive effects for the orchestra?
Sincerely, I see absolutely no positives in this situation for
the JFO or culture in general. The promising time before the
COVID crisis was giving us hope that culture, underfunded
in long-term, would achieve the economic level which it
deserves. Now we have returned a few steps back.
What I have found very positive is the reactions of
musicians and members of JFO who immediately and
voluntarily got involved in many activities to support the
Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and other. Each crisis
comes up with a driving force which inspires collaboration,
brings people together, and generates extraordinary values.
These are all very positive, yet culture itself is badly affected.
In this strange period, we heard leading politicians of the
Czech Republic speaking of culture the way we had heard
them speaking years ago: as of something quite useless
and marginal. I do not say that a leading politician must
love culture. Not necessarily. Nevertheless, a leading
politician must understand the functions of culture in the
national context. Our culture and arts define us and make
How are your orchestra’s members these days, and what
are you preparing in spheres of new media?
We had to adapt to the new situation, there was no other
choice. Some might have understood the very first days
as a welcome time off, but the final length of our break
is destructive for an artist. Art is the means of fulfilment,
and if you do not work, you are losing this precious value
in life. We all miss music very very much and we have been
looking forward to play the concerts after the three-month
I believe that JFO promptly responded when creating
the platform of a live stream of concerts. We intended
to compensate for the unique experience from a live
concert. These concerts featured members of JFO who
decided to play without receiving any remuneration.
The approach of my colleagues and excellent quality
of the concerts performed from mud-April till the end
of June, have been a heart-warming surprise to me. A truly
brilliant project which has earned us large audiences
and attention of media. JFO was the first orchestra in
the Czech Republic to meet their audience personally
in the concert hall when the health and safety measures
ended. In mid-June we played wonderful concerts with
Kateřina Kněžíková, broadcast by the Czech Radio Vltava
(ČRo Vltava); and we basically spent all June recording.
New media will thus facilitate recording and delivering
a musical experience of the kind which has traditionally not
been associated with them.
Our magazine is a proud partner to your orchestra’s
67th season. Will you introduce us to the main attractions
of the programme?
First and foremost, the music itself, that is crucial even
in these days. If I am to introduce novelties and highlights
of what to expect, here is my hit list:
- We are going to introduce our new chief-conductor,
the legend from Russia and global VIP of classic music
Vassily Sinaisky who is joining us in September.
- the Czech artist Petr Popelka, “discovered” and initially
promoted by JFO, will be introduced as the main guest
- Mr Lukáš Vondráček, the world-famous pianist will
become our soloist-in-residence and will play three
concerts in this season.
This concert season will introduce personalities
of worldwide reputation: Grigorij Sokolov, Piotr
Anderszewski, Danjulo Ishizaka, Christian Arming,
- We develop the range of crossover projects in Gong; the
tribute band Queenie and Cirk La Putika accepted our
- I am sincerely convinced that we all will enjoy the
development of the project of the new concert hall
for Ostrava, as designed by the studio of Steven Holl.
Thank you for the interview.
POSITIV 2/2020 ǀ 97