Prague Woodwind Trio bridges gap between countires

Joy Manweiler

The Woodwind Trio of the Prague Castle Guard Police Band performed Monday night in Harper Hall. They lectured on and played Bohemian folk and classical music in order to bridge the gap between the Czech Republic and the U.S. Joel Blahnik, who co-owns a publishing company whose mission includes publishing Czech music, scheduled the Trio’s three-week tour of the Midwest.The group is composed of two clarinetists and a bassoonist. The first clarinet, Daniel Blazek, is the principal clarinetist of the Prague Castle Guard Police Band, which is the President’s Band. The band provides entertainment for visiting dignitaries and for state ceremonies.

The second clarinet, Vaclav Blahunek, is also the conductor of the Castle Guard Band — he is one of the top conductors in the Czech Republic. The bassoonist, Jaroslav Jezek, is also a member of the band.

Blahunek is using this tour not only to share his extensive knowledge of Czech music and considerable musical talent, but also to learn as much as he can about American wind band music.

The trio introduced a Bohemian classical composer named Pichl, who was a great influence on many European composers, including Mozart. The trio demonstrated this influence by playing two Divertimentos (one by Pichl and one by Mozart) and then two Minuettos (one by Pichl and one by Mozart). The similarities were undeniable, and therefore, as Blahunek told the audience, “It is a mystery why Mozart is famous and Pichl is not.”

The biggest hit of the classical portion of the evening was a piece titled Scandalous Symphony. The composer, Julius Fucik, was a bassoonist, so the piece was wonderfully suited to the trio. The piece featured a bassoon cadenza (which was enough to knock anyone’s socks off) and lots of little musical jokes, which Jezek executed in perfect humor.

The concert also included a few examples of traditional Bohemian folk music. The trio welcomed a violinist/singer/dancer and a bagpiper to the stage. The two were in traditional Bohemian costume, which was in contrast to the military-like band uniforms that the trio wore.

Blahunek warned the audience that there would be shouting and shooting in one piece, but reassuringly said, “but don’t be scared, it’ll be fine.” The shouting turned out to be more like a very high-pitched “yee-haw” that one might imagine coming from a cowboy on helium, and the dancer produced the shooting sound by slapping two wooden blocks together.

Beginning to build a bridge between the U.S. and the Czech Republic, the Woodwind Trio of the Prague Castle Guard Police Band will be continuing on their tour with stops in Door County, Kaukauna, Kohler, and others.