The day the tanks invaded
IN 1968, cellist Jiri Barta was four years old and staying in his parents’ holiday house in Lobendava, Czechoslavakia near Dresden on the German border.
“It was the middle of summer,” he said.
“I vividly remember the terrifying sound of Russian tanks rolling in. There was no television in this humble village. No one knew that Russia had invaded.”
It would be another 20 years before his father was able to travel again.
At nine, Barta studied the cello. His uncle was a professional cellist.
His mother loved the instrument’s sound.
He studied in Prague with Josef Chuchro, one of the world’s leading cellists.
In Australia, chamber music festivals are springing up everywhere inspired by Townsville’s example – the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.
According to Barta, affectionately nicknamed “Man Bun” by Festival enthusiasts, this is not the case in Slovakia.
Yet in 2008, he founded the successful Kutna Hora International Chamber Music Festival.
“This encompasses contemporary and classi- cal music,” he said. “It’s not as big as the AFCM. There are around 10 players. Concerts take place in churches because of their “silvery resonance”.
A member of the Eben Trio, Barta likes to create meaningful rewarding programs, something he has in common with AFCM artistic director Piers Lane who he met years ago at America’s Newport Festival.
Barta believes the string quartet is arguably the purest chamber group.
“Composers, like Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven, poured intimate feelings into their music for the quartet,” he said.
“All voices are exposed. It takes years to achieve unity, to sing as one soul. The cello is the foundation and has to express all the colours. Bring out its own voice when required.”
After Townsville, Barta will go with his wife and children to that same house in Lobendava he visited as a child. “Phrasing makes music meaningful,” he said.
“Sensitive, talented musician are treasures because of their natural sensitivity. But, they need someone to point out how to analyse and make decisions about shaping phrases. Exquisite phrases come from the brain as well as the heart.”