Czech pianist declares boycott on Prague

The international pianist Lukáš Vondráček has been so annoyed by the reviews he receives in his country’s capital that he has cancelled all concerts there for the forseeable future.

He writes: ‘I have always been a proud Czech who performed with humility and gratitude on Prague stages and represented the culture of our small country abroad. I am very concerned about the conditions prevailing in the Czech musical environment. This environment is, in my opinion, often disrespectful and in many ways completely self-centered and unprofessional. Sadly, a country with such a rich musical tradition as the Czech Republic cannot support high-quality musicians with original musical thinking.’

The immediate trigger was a hostile review by Dita Hradecká of his recital this month in the Rudolfinum, but he is also ppp’d off with the management of the hall which forbade him to practise in the dressing room while another performance was going on and, in general, with the whole state of music in Prague.

You can read his diatribe here (in Czech).

Lukáš Vondráček, 33, won the 2016 Queen Elisabth Competition in Brussels. He lives mostly in the US.

 

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  • I should think that Max Reger’s classic response would have sufficed: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.”

    • That’s as may be. But I am always wary of artists who take the hump over a bad crit. And this practising in the dressing room thing — are we clear that it is far enough from the stage that it would not disturb anyone who wanted to hear the concert? I know theatres where some dressing rooms — especially those of guest stars, who are generally nearest the stage — would not be inaudible to people backstage who might want to hear the onstage performance for personal or professional reasons.

  • “Disrespect” has joined the 21st century’s list of meaningless words. Presumably it means never getting unfavourable reviews and nothing less than grovelling from concert organisers.

  • I read the article via Google Translate, then looked up some concert reviews. The ones I found were mostly positive, and the reservations that the critics had were much more cogently expressed than the ones he complains about (which are fine examples of bad writing).

    I never got the impression that he’s complaining about not getting rave reviews, but that the reviews are so poorly written.

    In his essay “On Good And Bad Critics,” Hermann Hesse makes the case that a critic should not try to be “objective,” but rather should be purposely subjective, while also communicating his tastes and biases — and providing reasons for them — to his readership, who can then make up their minds whether they agree with him (if they attended the concert), or whether they would have enjoyed it (if they didn’t). The reviews that Vondrasek quotes in his article read like they were written by students who can’t articulate why they didn’t like something.

    I will quote from my critic Dita Hradecká for my recital at the Dvořák Hall of Prague Rudolfinum in December 2019: “In a man who has the reputation of a piano crusher”, “we watched a long struggle of an artist with a score” than anyone of his age, he has a long journey of maturation as a (not only artistic) personality ”.

    Even making allowances for the vagaries of Google Translate, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. “Reputation as a piano crusher” is clear enough (although all the other reviews I found mention his huge sound, produced without harshness), but the idea that he has a lot of maturing to do as a person? (a) How do they know that, and (b) why does it matter? IT DOESN’T.

    I would still encourage him to perform in his home country, but perform for the audience, not the critics. Just accept that the reviews will be nonsensical, and let the ovations speak for themselves.

  • Just take the money and run ! Who cares about critics anyway? Most of them are just frustrated performers who can’t do it.

  • I saw Vondracek a couple years ago in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic, and he was received with great pride by audience and orchestra alike.

    I have no doubt the managements can be a pain to deal with. Maybe he should just organize his own concert in Prague; people will come. And ignore the reviews.

  • He is no doubt a great pianist but also so arrogant…The review he is so annoyed about is actually very mild and ends with a positive message. And there is nothing wrong with Czech musical enviroment except it doesn’t adore him unconditionally.

  • I believe his complaint was more about how the reviews were making unfounded personal assumptions about him, and this was compounded by the lack of any musical skill or expertise on the part of the reviewer.

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