JAMU Celebrates 100th Birthday of Rector Emeritus Alena Veselá With a Concert This Thursday

Veselá was awarded the Brno City Award in 1979 and 2000, and the South Moravian Region Award in 2011. She is also the holder of a state award for merit in art and education, received in 2020. Photo credit: JAMU.

Brno, 14 June (BD) – Brno’s Janáček Academy of Performing Arts (JAMU) will celebrate the 100th birthday of its rector emeritus Alena Veselá with a birthday concert, to take place tomorrow in the Concert Hall of the JAMU Faculty of Music. Pianist Jan Jiraský will perform, together with members of the Graff Quartet and double bassist Miloslav Jelínek.

 Professor Alena Veselá is a Czech organist and was the first post-revolutionary rector of JAMU from 1990-1997. Her life is very closely connected with the Janáček Academy, as she was among the first students who entered the academy after its establishment in 1947. Veselá was awarded the Brno City Award in 1979 and 2000, and the South Moravian Region Award in 2011. She is also the holder of a state award for merit in art and education, awarded to her by President Miloš Zeman in 2020.

Veselá was a promoter of music, not only of classical masters such as Johann Sebastian Bach, but also contemporary music by Peter Eben and Paul Hindemith. Besides her performances at many concerts all over the world, she is the founder of the Brno Organ Festival and helps with the activities of the Association of Friends of Music at Filharmonie Brno, of which she is the honorary president. She is also one of the main figures involved in the construction of a new concert hall in Brno.

“Alena Veselá fascinated me from our first meeting in 1991 with her incredible vitality and enthusiasm, with which she promoted important artistic and cultural values,” said Barbara Maria Willi, the current dean of the JAMU Faculty of Music. “Her rectorship fell into the period when Czechoslovak society was forming its renewed identity. Veselá brought dignity and elegance to the complex process. Her presence can inspire an attitude of respect and hope in anyone who comes into contact with her. Alena Veselá is one of the reasons why I am in Brno.”

At the birthday concert, pianist Jan Jiraský, members of the Graff Quartet and double bassist Miloslav Jelínek will perform Quintet in A major, op. 114, D 667, known as “The Trout”, which has a symbolic meaning for the celebratory concert.

“The professor often and fondly remembers her young years, her father’s “Chemical” string quartet and their music making together at the piano. They played, among other things, the Piano Quintet “The Trout”. She fell in love with this idyllic composition by the 22-year-old Franz Schubert,” said Jiraský. “Sometime since 2015, she mentioned quite often that she would like to listen to a concert performance of “The Trout”. Surprisingly, this beautiful quintet has not been heard in Brno for many years, so the choice of our musical gift was absolutely clear.”

“I personally met Professor Vesela for the first time at an acoustic test before my entrance exam at JAMU,” said Jiraský. “I had called the faculty to see if it was possible to try out the piano in advance. I was trying out the piano in the concert hall, when the five-metre door opened and a small, seemingly insignificant person stood in it: “Keep playing, I’m just going to see who’s playing this Chopin etude so nicely here.” The praise worked, I played the etude well in the exams and I additionally understood that the rector herself, an organist of international renown, had come to the hall to wish me luck.” 

He added that Vesela stood out for her natural modesty and was always happy with the art of others, but could also be very assertive and stubborn when necessary. On one occasion, when the school failed to apply for a subsidy to stop the building sinking into the shifting ground, she sat uninvited in front of state treasurer Václav Klaus’s office for several days, until he finally ensured that the Faculty of Music was completely repaired.

The concert will take place tomorrow, 15 June, from 7pm, in the Concert Hall of the Faculty of Music at JAMU, Komenskeho nám. 6.

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