Zither has been standing outside public’s interest if not living in illegality for almost the whole of the 20th century and certainly during the last fifty years. It has been regarded as forgotten and unappreciated by the last enthusiasts who play the zither at home. Their repertoir is a product of the time when zither was at the top of its popularity, this means 19th century. These zither players are usually the only participants when any meetings or sessions take place.
However, this will probably be no longer true. “Prague Zither Session” took place in Prague on 17th September 2004 (as a part of World Music Festival “Colours of Prague”). This was the day when zither came out of illegality, was heard and listened to as any other musical instrument, which musicians use to express themselves.
We had a chance to hear a German virtuoso Christoph Schwarzer, Michal Müller from the Czech Republic or an Austrian phenomenal player Harald Oberlechner. The final performance of Psalterium-trio (H.Obeerlechner, E.Giuliani, B.Eichner) and Czech trio Njorek (Jaroslav “Olin” Nejezchleba, Michal Müller, Stanislav Barek) convinced everybody that zither was reborn. It was an amazing experience for all the audience who responded to the music very spontaneously. ABATON club hosted not only this evening concert but also a two-day workshop, in which three lecturers and eight “students” took part. All the participants were more than satisfied with quality of the workshop and the whole event.
It is Michal Müller who must be praised for rebitrth of zither in the Czech Republic. He is the one who started and continues to include zither into contemporary modern streams of music. He is a recent graduate of Vienna Music Academy (specialization zither, professor H. Laister). His co-players noticed touches of bluesrock in Michal’s playing and together they entered the genre of “ethno”, using the quitar, zither, cello.They all sing as well.
There is one more person whose contribution to the success of “Prague Zither Session” must be mentioned. It was Jiøí Smrèek, the director of Colours of Prague Agency. I dare say that a new history of zither has started. I hope it will be free of the past, free of all unfortunate political and social circumstances surrounding it throughout the twentieth century. It is, as “Prague Zither Session” showed, incredibly easy. The only thing needed is to capture the audience with music. And they must come for the music not only zither itself. I am proud to say that Michal and all the others managed to do so.
Ostrava, 20th September 2004