Geoff Piper or the satisfaction of developing special onnections

1-2 2007 Kultura English
obálka čísla

Geoff Piper, a mild-mannered man looking typically English, settled in Luxembourg around thirty years ago where he worked as a translator from French and German. His wife is a Luxembourger - which is not quite as ordinary as it may seem, since only around seven of every ten people living in this tiny country have Luxembourgish nationality. She also earned a living with languages as is quite common in the country. Today, both live contentedly in a nice small house, surrounded by greenery, not far from the Czech Embassy, where they could enjoy retirement in peace. But Mr Piper wanted an interesting hobby, to which he devotes most of his time. This is Czech music and promoting it in Luxembourg and elsewhere.

Connections between an English translator from French and German for the European Commission - Luxembourg City- Cesky dialog? You have them all here:

Mr Piper, how did your work for Czech music and musicians begin?

In 1995 Luxembourg was European City of Culture. I was given quite a lot of money to organize something in the musical line. I conceived the idea of inviting musicians from seven different countries, most of these near Luxembourg (Belgium , Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, France and of course Luxembourg). The last choice fell on the Czech Republic. This was really a coincidence because I had no contacts there, but a friend who went to Prague arranged a meeting for me with Mrs Benesova in the Rudolfinum. This lady, who turned out to be a fantastic help, recommended me a Prague youth orchestra ; the teachers at the time were Eva Bublova (violin), Martin Skampa (cello) and Martin Bally (piano). The orchestra played beautifully and one year later, I invited these teachers to play in Luxembourg.

Remark by the editor:

Mr Geoff Piper is a good amateur musician himself, playing the cello and piano. He has played for years in an amateur symphony orchestra. But also for years, he knew no more about Czech music than what every musician knows - for example, that Dvorak, Smetana and Janacek were important composers and a very little about their predecessors and successors. Ten years ago, however, this all changed and Mr Piper today has a truly remarkable grasp of the Czech musical scene in general. And how he achieved it is quite admirable.

So you started to invite more and more musicians and organize concerts for them in Luxembourg ? And not only that?

That's right. I founded the non-profit-making association MusicEnterprise which has these concerts as a main aim. However, I developed other activities in connection with Czech music ; for example, I co-finance recordings of Czech musicians and I organize summer courses for amateur musicians in the Czech Republic with Czech tutors.

Can you tell us a bit more about these activities?

Gladly. As far as concerts are concerned, I am up to number 85. It is a fearful amount of work but I get some help from partners, for example Mrs Dana Jelinkova who also lives in Luxembourg.

I often receive emails asking me if I can find concerts for somebody or other but I only invite artists whom I know personally. MusicEnterprise represents a whole number of them in Luxembourg - the names are well known (Petr Jirikovsy and Jitka Cechova, piano, the Kapralova and Martinu Quartets, the Prague Chamber Orchestra etc).

The summer courses take place at splendid locations, e.g. Jindrichuv Hradec or the castle of Vilémov (near Golcuv Jenikov), and previously in Prague.

And what about the recordings?

MusicEnterprise has sponsored for Czech Radio and ArcoDiva (here I should like to mention the recording of the Martinu Quartet playing pieces by two excellent contemporary composers, Sylvia Bodorova and Ronald Stevenson). There have been nine titles in all.

You usually invite solo musicians or duos, trios, quartets etc. What about orchestras ? Are they more complicated?

Yes, because of transport arrangements, accommodation etc. Still, I have succeeded in getting two well-known orchestras to Luxembourg ; the Prague Chamber Orchester and the Suk Chamber Orchestra (the latter in 2006) and I have had other smaller chamber music groups.

Would you say that the Luxembourgers are really interested in Czech music and musicians?

There is always interest in top quality and the musicians and orchestras we are talking about certainly display it. But the competition in Europe is enormous and I can hardly say that there is any rush to hear the Czech music which I personally like so much!

In addition, Czech ensembles are getting more and more expensive - not so much owing to higher fees but because of the enormous rise in the Czech crown. So I am currently trying something else; forming PERMANENT ensembles which combine Luxembourg and Czech musicians. This is an absolute first in the history of two countries linked by such names as John the Blind (Jan Lucembursky) and Charles IV!

The first, the BOHEMIA LUXEMBOURG TRIO, is made up of Katerina Englichova (harp), Jitka Hosprova (viola) and Luxembourg flute player Carlo Jans and it already appears on two CDs. The second is a piano trio composed of Daniela Souckova (violin), Petra Holubcova (cello) and Luxembourg pianist Pascal Meyer. This is a very risky undertaking because the players do not yet know each other properly!

The first, the BOHEMIA LUXEMBOURG TRIO, is made up of Katerina Englichova (harp), Jitka Hosprova (viola) and Luxembourg flute player Carlo Jans and it already appears on two CDs. The second is a piano trio composed of Daniela Souckova (violin), Petra Holubcova (cello) and Luxembourg pianist Pascal Meyer. This is a very risky undertaking because the players do not yet know each other properly!

You are also a member of various Czech musical associations, if my information is correct..

Yes, I am a member of the International Martinu Circle, the Bedrich Smetana Association and the Club of Moravian Composers, as well as of the British Dvorak Society which is the leading body for Czech and Slovak music outside the Czech and Slovak Republics. I also subscribe to the Heart of Europe (in English) and now Cesky dialog!

We are pleased to hear it! And I must add that it is most gratifying that you understand Czech well and even speak it. How often to you go to Prague or anywhere else in the Czech Republic?

Oh, twice or three times a year. And one of my stays was spent in a hospital in Caslav? I also go to the Bohuslav Martinu festival. But I was in Prague once before all this, in 1975. And I did not like it one bit. It was sad, grey and dirty. Today is just the opposite, thank goodness. Even at that time, I was interested in the Slav languages; I studied languages at Oxford, worked in Germany and then received a wonderful job offer in Luxemburg. But I never had anything to do with the Slav languages and I wanted to know how they work. I started to learn Czech about eight years ago in connection with my musical activities. Czech is fascinating, but very dfficult - I am afraid I shall never master it to the extent I should like.

Well I think that does not matter very much; you promote Czech culture and the Czech Republic so well that you deserve our sincere thanks. On behalf of Cesky dialog, I wish MusicEnterprise and yourself all success in the future.

Martina Fialkova
translated by Geoff Piper

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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