Monthly Archives: June 2011

My Heller


Stephen Heller (1813 – 1888), is one of those composers whose works are always pleasing to my ear. The first work by this Hungarian composer which I have ever heard was Prelude in B major, Op. 81 No. 13 (from ’24 Preludes’), not a very complicated piece, but very harmonic and somehow moving. Later I played some of his works myself; I remember my first crooked notes of Heller’s Etude Op.47 No.1 – Allegretto or Etude Op.46 No. 2 – Allegretto scherzando like it was today.

Heller, similar to Mozart was giving concerts to a wide public as a child. However, he didn’t travel that much at an early age: at the age of nine, he used to perform with his teacher at the Budapest theatre.

He settled in Paris in 1838 and it is said that later he even became friendly with Franz Liszt, Frederick Chopin, Hector Berlioz and many other famous composers of that period. He wasn’t only a composer, but also a teacher and a brilliant performer. According to www.classicalmidi.co.uk , some critics judged him as superior to Chopin. Also, according to www.classicalarchives.com, he is thought to have had an influence on both Fauré and Chabrier.

Heller wrote hundreds of compositions for piano and these included: scherzos, sonatas, nocturnes, dance movements, caprices, variations, waltzes, fantasies and many other works. He died almost forgotten in Paris at the age of 75. Some people would say that his works were very good, somehow elegant, but not very original. However, this can be only judged by a mastermind of classical music.

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A little known Europe – Czech Republic.


Studying and living in a different country is a great opportunity to improve one’s knowledge about people who sometimes are your neighbours living beyond the borders of your home country.

I remember the 22nd of May 2008 like it was today, as then Aberdeen College celebrated International Day. Also, at that time I spoke to one of my College tutors about my nation’s emblem, and I unintentionally referred to a very old Polish legend. This legend says that a long, long time ago three brothers wandered around the world to find a place where they could settle down with their people. They were named Lech, Czech and Rus. Lech built his city and named it Gniezno, which became the first capital of Poland and the place of coronation for the first Polish kings. The second brother – Czech, went to the South and Rus went to the East. They founded their countries over there and since then, these nations have been inhabited by Czechs and Russians.

Knowing many Czech people, who I obviously met in Scotland, inspired me to improve and at the same time share my little knowledge about them. The Czech Republic is not that big a country. Its area is 78 866 km2. It is a landlocked country and is situated in Middle Europe. It has borders with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.

The name of the capital of Czech Republic, Prague, may sound familiar to many people.  It is situated on the river Voltava with a dominant royal castle – Hrad above the city hill. The city has over 1.250.000 inhabitants and is the most popular and oft-visited place by tourists. This city is like a „living textbook” of the development of architectural styles. It is full of Romanian, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings with unique examples of cubist architecture. However, the most famous is Charles’ Bridge, built between 1357 and 1402, decorated with a gallery of sculptures.

The Czech kitchen is quite interesting, and Czechs are well known for their love of noodle called ‘knedliky’. The other most popular dishes are: ‘buchty’ – raised cookies and ‘kachna se zelim’- browned duck with cabbage. Also, Czechs like eating fried slices of cheese with…chips.

Beer brewing has a very long tradition in the Czech Republic and many of the breweries have brewed their original beer until now. One of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic is brewery called Regent.  People interested in the beer production can visit a museum of brewing, and the oldest museum of brewing can be found in Pilzno.

The pride of Czech classical music is Bedrich Smetana,  born in the 19th century. His symphonic poem ‘My country’ became a kind of symbol of Czech music. A curious fact is that the composer never heard his own composition, because a few years before he wrote it, he lost his hearing.

Currently, the most popular Czech musicians are Karel Gott, Peter Spaleny, Lucie Bila, Iveta Bartosowa, Heidi Janku, Hana Zagorowa, Helena Vondrackowa, among others.

Several times I have heard that the Czech and Polish languages are the same, so finally I would like to say few things about the similarity in meaning between the Polish and Czech languages. Doubtless when Poles and Czechs meet for first time they will understand each other much faster than the English and Russians would do, for example (obviously presupposing that they wouldn’t know each other’s languages). However, it does not mean that the Czech and Polish languages are identical. For example, the Polish ‘freak’ means ‘theatre’ in Czech, the Polish ’shed’ means ‘house’ in Czech, and the Polish ‘ladies’ means ‘man’ in Czech. They say ‘assault’ for our ‘idea’, and ‘penance’ for the Polish ‘fine’. We must be careful when we talk about smells because our ‘smell’ in Czech means…’stink’.

 

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