Out of the Shadows

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Written the day after the bombing, Vilém Tauský's Coventry: A Meditation returns to the city for the City of Culture celebrations

Coventry Cathedral after the Blitz in November 1940
Coventry Cathedral after the Blitz in November 1940

I principally associate the name of Czech conductor and composer Vilém Tauský (1910-2004) with light music, as that is what he often conducted on the radio when I first started listening to BBC Radio 3, but as a conductor and composer he had a far wider range than that. 

Born in Moravia, Tauský came from a musical family (his mother sang Mozart in Vienna under Mahler), and he studied with  Leoš Janáček and later became a repetiteur at the Brno Opera. But being of Jewish ancestry he fled just before the Second World War and joined the Czech Free Army. After the war he stayed in the UK  and introduced many Czech operas including Smetana's The Kiss, Janáček's Osud and Smetana's The Brandenburgers in Bohemia. In 1955 he also conducted all six symphonies by his friend Martinu in London, marking the composer's 65th birthday. But Tauský also conducted the premieres of British operas including Lennox Berkeley's A Dinner Engagement and Nelson, Malcolm Williamson's The Violins of St Jacques, and a recording of William Alwyn's Miss Julie.

Vilém Tauský came was in Leamington in the Autumn of 1940 with the Czech Free Army and went with a Czech Free Army ambulance into Coventry the day after the blitz which destroyed the cathedral on 14 November 1940. He quickly wrote Coventry:  A Meditation for string quartet as a response and it was premiered at the National Gallery in London by the Menges Quartet in the lunchtime series organized by Dame Myra Hess. In November 2000 on the sixtieth anniversary of the destruction of Coventry cathedral, there was a performance of Coventry in Drapers’ Hall played by the Martinů String Quartet. The composer was present, as were the bishops of Dresden and Coventry. 

On 12 November 2021, Tauský's Coventry: A Meditation returns to Coventry and Leamington as part of Leamington Music's contribution to the Coventry's year of City of Culture. The Jubilee Quartet will give a concert at 12.30pm in Drapers’ Hall in Coventry which includes the Tauský and Mendelssohn’s Quartet in A minor Op 13 and at 7.30pm will perform these two works and Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet in the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington. 

Full details from Leamington Music's website.

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