The Streets are alive with the sound of music—truly
Your toes will be tapping as you wander around
Since the 9th century, Prague, strategically placed astride the Vlatava River (set to music in Smetana’s “Ma Vlast”), has been an important hub for culture, music and literature. It’s also a mecca for architecture, and Prague’s cobblestone streets, lined with baroque, Gothic and renaissance architecture, are some of the most picturesque on the continent. Luckily, most of it was spared in the WW2 bombings. It was one of the few cities that did escape widespread damage.
Besides the obvious tourist sights, the music side of Prague is very obvious. The city’s reputation as a center of musical excellence was forged when Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in the Theatre of the Estates in 1787. Mozart loved Prague and the city loved Mozart too, and that love continues today. Nowadays, the city has 4 orchestras, 3 opera theatres, plus many churches and palaces that are used as venues for classical music. We were offered pamphlets all around the city, plus there are boards advertising concerts, or bundles of ads on lampposts. It’s a feature of tourism here (and in Vienna) and is a great way to get in some excellent musical performances. Here, lots of Mozart is featured, but also native sons Smetana and Dvorak, and others such as Beethoven. This must be a great system for current musicians—a steady source of work.
But, it’s not only about classical music. In the 1920s and 1930s the city was Eastern Europe’s jazz capital. And in the 1960s, Czech musicians played the most popular rock in the Eastern bloc. The arts went underground during the Communist era (another layer to the city’s history), when writers, artists and composers were heavily censored. They remained underground except for a brief period (known as the Prague Spring) in 1968, when Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek tried unsuccessfully to abolish censorship.
A popular underground culture emerged around a band called Plastic People of the Universe. The arrest of its members was one of the events that triggered the July 1989 Velvet Revolution, the uprising that finally overthrew the Communist government. Another famous artist for the people of Prague was John Lennon of the Beatles (see an earlier article on that here: https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/prague-lennon-v-lenin-and-love-locks/ )
All musical genres from classical to folk to pop and rock are represented by a slew of Czech artists in Prague now.
On our short visit we planned to attend a Mozart concert in a church but unfortunately we left on the day of the performance. (Last visit, Rod and I did go to a guitar concert in the chapel of St Giles Church, and we loved it)
But, it doesn’t really matter, as music is everywhere on the streets of Prague, on the famous Charles Bridge, on the steep road up to the Castle, on the main square, on smaller squares, or just at a street corner. We enjoyed stopping and listening to a lot of outdoor music, such as a Czech folk music group, a duo on the main square, an older musician on the edge of the same square, a rock group on the Charles Bridge, and even “Elvis” up at the Castle entrance!
For interest: Prague has just had the 23rd Alternativa Festival (always in
November, organized by UniJazz, www.unijazz.cz/en ), and the 24th Prague Autumn International Music Festival was in September (for 2016 see here, http://www.carnifest.com/events/czech-republic/prague/419/prague-autumn-international-music-festival-2016.aspx )