The Byzantion mixed chamber choir was formed in 1957 under the name "Collegium Musicae Slavicae Praga". The choir was founded by Dr. Olga Dutková, who – after studying at the Prague Conservatory and the Faculty of Philosophy at Prague's Charles University – devoted herself for many years to Slavonic/Byzantine music and earned her living as a conductor and artistic director. Under her leadership, the choir won many plaudits when taking part in concerts, competitions and charity events both at home and abroad (e.g. in France, Belgium and Germany).
The choir's repertoire encompasses a venerable tradition that dates back to the time of Cyril and Methodius (the 9th century Macedonian missionary monks who, together with Christianity, imported certain basic musical forms to these parts from their homeland). The introduction of the Eastern ("Old Church Slavonic") liturgy further aided the spread of Slavonic music and the Byzantine tradition. The twin influences of Byzantine music and Christianity spread to outlying areas, such as Armenia, where regionally peculiar musical variations were developed.
The aim of the choir is to cultivate the Greek/Byzantine and Slavonic music of Eastern Europe and the Near East and to acquaint the public with this ancient musical tradition, which stretches from ancient times right up to those present-day composers of spiritual works (such as Dmitrij Stepanovic Bortnanskij, Maxim Berezovskij, Artemij Lukjanovic Vedel) who are noted for their fresh interpretation of Old Church Slavonic and Byzantine choral music. Byzantion performs at Easter and Christmas concerts, memorial/benefit shows, churches, halls and chateaux in and outside Prague and at folk gatherings and conventions. It takes part in festivals of spiritual and church music (regularly appearing, for example, in the Tibi Laus festival in the north Bohemian town of Most and in the Šumava-Bayerischer Wald festival). The choir generally performs a capella, but is sometimes accompanied by instruments such as the violin, flute, piano or cello. It is a member of the Union of Czech Choral Groups.
Even though we sometimes struggle to find trustworthy and decipherable sources, we do our best to extract the maximum from the material available and take pleasure in presenting the fruit of our efforts at our concerts. The interest of the choir has expanded to encompass the music of Western and Central Europe – for example, our repertoire these days includes Christmas carols (from Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Lapland), Slavic folk songs (from countries such as Ukraine) and some compositions by contemporary authors (Jitka Snížková and Olga Dutková, among others). We also work with students of conducting who are preparing their graduation concerts.
The Byzantion chamber choir is comprised of amateurs who follow a variety of professional occupations. At present, we rehearse on Mondays between 5.15pm and 7pm in a primary school next to the Vršovice railway station in Prague 10. We welcome all new members – particularly tenors and basses – who are enthusiastic about this form of music.
|Past and present conductors of Byzantion|
|Olga Dutková||1957 - 1996|
|Evžen Kindler||1970 - 1990|
|Lenka Kašparová||1997 - 2000|
|Nadija Petrenko||2000 - 2006|
|Viktor Byček||2000 - 2006|
|Androniki Athanasi||2002 - 2003|
|Tereza Mlynaříková||2002 - 2005|
|Eva Komárková||od 2006|
Olga Dutková studied at the philosophical faculty of Charles University. Her main focus was on musical ethnography, palaeography, the study of eastern composers – especially of spiritual music – and teaching. In 1957, she founded Byzantion, which she led until 1996.
Evžen Kindler graduated from the philosophical faculty of Charles University, where he studied Greek epics and Armenian religious music (for the performance of which he later formed his own singing ensemble).
Nadija Petrenko graduated from the Higher Music School in Kyiv, where she studied singing and choral conducting. After her studies she performed as a soloist at the Kyiv State Opera and (after 1990) at the National Theatre in Prague. She also teaches.
Viktor Byček studied at the music faculty of the Higher Pedagogical Institute of Kirovohrad, Ukraine. He began his artistic career with the Ukrainian State Male Voice Choir, and later founded and led the mail vocal quartet "Kolo". He currently teaches music and is a soloist with the Prague Philharmonic Choir.
Lenka Kašparová, Androniki Athanasi and Tereza Mlynaříková all studied conducting at the Pedagogical Faculty of Charles University. To fulfil their practical course work requirements, they cooperated with Byzantion and at the end of their degree courses conducted the choir in graduation concerts.
The current artistic director and conductor of the choir, Eva Komárková was led to Byzantion through her own musical interests. After several years as an alto with the choir, she took a two-year conducting course at Charles University's Pedagogical Faculty. She continues to lead Byzantion and – as a result of her study of musical literature – has expanded the concert repertoire of the choir.