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Prague Hlahol

In this beautiful Art Nouveau building on the riverside is a main concert hall with a glass ceiling and busts of conductors of the Hlahol Choir, a small organ and a large lunette with a painting by Alphonse Mucha called "Česká píseň" (Czech Song).

Prague Hlahol, Masarykovo nábřeží 16, Praha 1 - Nové Město, 110 00
Web: http://www.hlahol.cz, e-mail: starosta@hlahol.cz
tel.: +420773669273

Object history

History of the Association
After 1861, when the new constitution was issued and the parliament was renewed, political and social life started to bloom, which is also documented by the creation of differently focused patriotic associations. Among the most important ones, it was the oldest singing (at first solely male) association Hlahol, which was formed from the private choir of Prague singer and brewer Jan Ludevít Lukes in the beginning of 1861. The first public performance was at a funeral of the writer Václav Hanka at Vyšehrad in January 1861. The first elected chairman was Count dr. Rudolf Thurn-Taxis, and one of the first conductors was Bedřich Smetana.

In 1862, Josef Mánes painted a standard to Hlahol, with a motto: Sing to reach the heart, the heart will reach the homeland. On the reverse side, there is the Czech lion with an inscription Prague Hlahol.

Over the next period, the association organizes concerts both home and abroad, it attends the festive laying down of the foundation stones to the National Theatre, it sings at funerals of important personalities, it becomes very popular and serves as a model for establishing other choirs throughout the country.

In 1879, female choir was included in Hlahol.

For some time, the association was thinking about having its own building; in 1903, donations from fans and members made it possible to purchase a municipal land plot between the embankment and Vojtěšská Street, and the construction started, according to projects of architect and Hlahol’s committee member František Schlaffer and Josef Fanta, who also took care of the decorations. They both worked free of charge and thanks to them, one of the most expressive and cleanest Secession buildings was realized, to be later declared a cultural monument. It was festively opened in November 1905.

The association worked freely until the outbreak of World War II, when its activities were limited to a minimum; later on, it was possible to pursue the artistic activities again, but the contacts with foreign countries were broken. In May 1948, within the framework of the Prague Spring, there was a famous concert of the St. Ludmila Oratorio by A. Dvořák in the Prague Castle courtyard, where together with Hlahol, there were 6 other choirs, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra joined with the FOK orchestra conducted by Rafael Kubelík. In the same year, the male choir also attended the funeral of President Beneš.

In 1957, a symphonic orchestra with 70 members was established on an amateur base, which, nevertheless, managed to accompany the choir in most performances. It fell apart in 1978, and a string orchestra was established in 1984.

After 1989, the choir has again started to organize successful concerts abroad, and there are many concerts held in our country, too, often as benefit performances.

Most of the time, Hlahol was a rich association, and besides the two mentioned tenement houses on the embankment, it owned two more houses in Liliová Street, demised by will by Josef Fanta (due to lack of finances needed for its maintenance, it was basically forced to donate it to the state in the 50s).

The Front facing the Embankment (the 1st house)
Above the right entrance (original wooden door), there is a mosaic of the mythological bird Phoenix with spread wings and the completion date 1905. There are three memorial plaques between both the entrances above the windows, commemorating the Hlahol conductors: Bedřich Smetana (1912, Jos. Fanta and L. Beneš), Karel Bendl and Karel Knittl (1927 Josef Fanta and Čeněk Vosmík). There is an inscription Hlahol above the first-floor windows. The sculptural decorations on the front (stucco allegorical figures supporting the balconies) are the work of Josef Pekárek, the ornaments and inscriptions were realized by Karel Mottl. The front is concluded by a vaulted gable with a painting on ceramics by K. L. Klusáček. It is an allegory of Music - on the right, there is a woman playing the lyre, and on the left, there is a group of listeners.

The Front facing Vojtěšská Street (the 2nd house)
An exquisite Secession facade with new-Renaissance gable, figurative sgraffitoes with musical themes and inscriptions was realized by K. L. Klusáček. At the top, there is a half-figure holding a lyre in the raised hand (probably by Josef Pekárek). Above the first-floor windows, there is a tree with an inscription Hlahol, framed by flowers, and there is the association’s motto at the top (see above). There is a sgraffito of tree branches with leaves and birds between the fourth-floor windows.

The vestibule on this side of the house has a staircase lighted by the original stained glass windows.

The Interior
There is a yard between the two tenement houses, where a ground-floor concert hall was built - the large hall - with a glassed saddle roof, under which there is a gallery of K. L. Klusáček’s paintings. On the wall against the stage, there is a lunette named Song - allegory of singing (on canvas), painted for Hlahol in 1921 by Alfons Mucha. It is his last great piece; it was only installed in the hall in 1934.

The walls are lined with wood, and above the lining, there are busts of significant conductors and officials of Hlahol. The doors, the chandeliers and the gallery balustrades are all original.

From this hall, it is possible to enter the neighbouring small hall, separated by wall, which is used for practising. There are group photographs of the choir members in different periods.

There is a museum of the association on the first floor, where there are commemorative objects and prizes, such as the original association banner, a hammer and a shovel used in laying down the foundation stone.

Some Conductors and Honorary Members
There are famous names from the musical world among the Hlahol conductors, such as the founder and popular singer Jan Ludevít Lukes, Bedřich Smetana, Karel Bendl, Karel Knittl, Jaroslav Křička, dr. Václav Smetáček, and many others. Among the honorary members, we can name, for example, Bedřich Smetana, Pavel Křížkovský, J. B. Foerster, Leoš Janáček, Vítězslav Novák, or Josef Suk.

 

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