Jan Bartos with the CPO: Winter Symphonies seriesWith a motto that ‘‘Music is my life, a necessity’’ governing everything he does, Czech pianist Jan Bartos (pictured left), who is here to perform the the 12th Piano Concerto in A K 414 by Mozart with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra on 13 June, 2024, in the Winter Symphonies at the City Hall, you can be sure that he is a profoundly serious musician, says PETA STEWART:

One might say he had no choice but to become a musician.

“Musical prowess was hereditary,“ he says. “From teacher-parents and siblings performing on violin and guitar to violinist cousins and uncles playing the double bass and trumpet, our family gatherings were symphonies in themselves. My grandfather, a performer of the hammered dulcimer, infused our lineage with yet another layer of musical heritage. In a family so deeply rooted in music, escaping its allure was simply out of the question,” he smiles.

“Picking up an instrument was a rite of passage. I took my first piano and composition lessons at the age of five. By the age of six, I composed a poignant piece titled Memories — a testament to my early immersion in the world of music,” he says.

“The desire to become a professional pianist burned within me from then, with unwavering intensity. Music was never a hobby; it was an intrinsic part of my being. It shaped my identity in profound ways,” Bartos continues.

Jan Bartos with the CPO: Winter Symphonies series

National tour

Bartos is on a national tour, performing with the CPO, the Johannesburg Philharmonic, KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Free State University in Bloemfontein in cooperation with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, and he is delighted to “connect with diverse audiences in South Africa, for to share my passion for music is truly a dream come true“.

He is an ambassador for Czech music, which  is intrinsic to his being.

“Championing lesser-known composers like Miloslav Kabeláč is not just a passion; it’s a mission. While renowned Czech composers Dvořák, Smetana, and Janáček rightfully hold their place in the international spotlight, there exists a wealth of musical treasures like those by Kabeláč, a visionary,  waiting to be unearthed from the depths of Czech music history. Kabeláč’s compositions possess a haunting beauty and profound depth that demand recognition. By shedding light on the works of composers like Kabeláč, I hope to rectify the injustices of history and give voice to the silenced narratives of Czech music.“ Needless to say, he has recorded many of his works, and those of other lesser-known composers too.

Bartos is piano and chamber music professor at the prestigious Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

“Teaching holds a special place in my heart, allowing me to impart knowledge and share my deep-seated passion for music with aspiring young musicians as I witness their growth and development firsthand. I firmly believe in the importance of mentorship and nurturing the next generation of musicians, just as I have benefited from the guidance and generosity of my own teachers,” he adds.

Jan Bartos with the CPO: Winter Symphonies series

Teaching is a calling

“Teaching is not just a responsibility; it’s a calling- a way to honour the invaluable lessons I’ve received and by passing on what I’ve learned and fostering a love for music in others, I hope to contribute to the continued enrichment of our musical heritage.“

He also regularly gives masterclasses abroad and will be artist in residence at Brown University in Rhode Island this year. Bartos established the Prague Music Performance festival and institute, in which he creates and orchestra performing original compositions by composers such as Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell; he also creates projects that defy categorisation and challenge traditional notions of music-making. One of the aspects of this festival which makes it very special is the regular presence of Alfred Brendel (pictured above with Bartos on piano) since 2013.

“His deep connection to the festival and the fact that I consider him a friend after all these years of collaboration speaks volumes about the bond that has developed between us. The availability of his lectures and masterclasses from my festival on platforms like YouTube allows his wisdom and insights to reach a global audience, further extending the impact of his teachings beyond the confines of the festival.”

The pre-concert talk by John Woodland takes place at 18;45 and is open to concert-goers. The dress rehearsal is open to the public at 11 am on concert day.

The rest of the works on the programme are a selection of Water Music pieces by Handel and the Symphony no 6 by Wilms, a Dutch composer, on the podium will be Conrad van Alphen, South African born Dutch conductor.

What: Jan Bartos with CPO | Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Winter Symphonies season
Where, when: Thursday, 13 June 2024, Cape Town City Hall. The pre-concert talk by Albert Combrink is at 6.45pm and is open to concert-goers
Tickets: Webtickets