Václav Klaus, Impresario

udílení Státních vyznamenání na Pražském HraděImagine the president of the United States regularly presenting jazz in the East Room of the White House; that is the level of recognition Václav Klaus gave the music. President of the Czech Republic from 2003 to March of this year, Klaus succeeded the Republic’s first president, Václav Havel. He hosted 90 monthly concerts known as Jazz na Hradě, at the Prague Castle. This 2011 Rifftides post reports on one of the events. Here on the left, we see Klaus with the Czech pianist Emil Viklický, who served the president as adviser to the series.

This is from a 2005 Rifftides post:

From the web site of San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club of California comes a transcript containing what may be the most unexpected question ever asked the head of a country in a public forum. The club’s speaker last November was Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic. At the end of a question and answer session covering the European Union, Turkey, Iraq and the nature of elections in his post-Communist nation, this was the exchange:

Q: If you could be any jazz pianist, who would you be?

A: I will never be a jazz pianist in my life. Nevertheless, I think that jazz music for us is very important, and I must say that in the early 1960s, the beginning of jazz clubs in the Czech Republic, in Prague, was part of the culture of revolution which brought about the 1960s and the Prague Spring and all of that – so jazz plays a very important part in our lives.

Now that Klaus has left office, the series at the Castle has ended, but Klaus’s interest in jazz has not. In his blog Prague Jazz, Tony Emmerson discusses the transition to a new location.

New President Miloš Zeman has not continued with Jazz na Hradě but the concept, the logo, some of the organisers and the man himself have relocated. Under the title of Jazzová KLAUSura, the new concert series kicked off at the Autoklub České Republiky with American flute and tenor sax maestro Lew Tabackin.

To read all of Emmerson’s report, go here.

Jazz na Hradě presented not only Viklický, Mraz and other heroes of Czech Jazz but also the occasional visiting American band. Last October, it was the quintet led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano with Lawrence Fields, piano; Linda Oh, bass; and Joey Baron, drums. Their pieces included “Body and Soul.”

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  1. Ann Braithwaite says

    Doug, If you ever get a chance to meet André Ménard of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, ask him about his Václav Havel stories. There’s one involving Michael Jackson wanting to buy a castle that’s very funny!

  2. says

    I always thought that if we got a black president that we would have jazz programs in all the public schools. I was very naive!