COMBINING quality music with a good cause, several US music ensembles will come to Bratislava to play for the Slovak Cancer Research Foundation, with one concert by the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra having already taken place on June 1.

“I have been organising various events since the Velvet Revolution,” organiser Ján Juráš told The Slovak Spectator. “But I am careful about selecting with whom and on what to cooperate. An absolute priority is Bach, and then charity concerts of various types. I happened to learn of Briton John Tregellas, who founded The Prague Concert Co. agency. My condition for collaborating with John was that the concerts will be a charity for the Slovak Cancer Research Foundation where I am a manager, or for the Martin Rázus Association which I founded to spread the word about this Slovak writer, and where I am an honorary chairman now.”

This year, the proceeds collected from four concerts by US orchestras will help finance a special screening microscope, tertiary prevention of cancer patients (i.e. rehab and prevention of recurrence of the illness) and a tissue microarrayer. Later, two British concerts help raise money for Slovak literature.

On Tuesday, June 17, the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, will play the operatic works of Rossini and Wagner, as well as works of Witold Lutoslawski Dmitri Shostakovich. Famous soprano Dawn Upshaw (winner of several Grammies) will sing the solo parts.
The third concert on June 23 will offer Slavonic works, like Bedřich Smetana’s Vl-tava, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Ru-ssian Easter Overture and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10 in E-Minor. The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Law-rence Loh.

The final US concert will bring the more contemporary, swinging music of Richard Strauss, Leonard Bernstein and Gershwin, as performed by the California Youth Symphony, led by Leo Eylar. It takes place on July 1.

All concerts will be held in the big Concert Studio of the Slovak Radio building, on Mýtna 1 in Bratislava, starting at 19:00. Although admission is free (voluntary contributions are collected during the break), it is advisable to procure a ticket in advance, either through jan@juras.sk, 0905/716-851, or at the vending points of the Ticketportal chain in Radlinského 27 and shopping centres.

In the end of the first concert, the hall saw two encores (conducted by young assistant conductor Jane Kim), and those who came out likely did not regret it. The UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra played Aaron Copland, Gershwin and Saint-Saens, within its European tour.

The first of the events offered by the British ensembles will mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Just four days before the centenary, on July 24, the Berkshire Youth Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Burnett, will play the works of Edward Elgar, Khachaturian, Bizet and George Butterworth, a young British composer who wrote during the war and died in battle at the Somme River in France.

The concluding concert on August 4 will see the East Sussex Youth Orchestra conducted by Colin Metters perform the works of Czech composers Josef Suk, Dvořák and Austrian Gustav Mahler. The receipts from the last two performances will support the publishing of literary works of Slovak authors Božena Slančíková-Timrava and Martin Rázus.