jana demartini

Tomas Svoboda’s Symphony #2: A love story in four movements

Portland Youth Philharmonic gives world premiere of Portland composer’s lost 1963 masterpiece

First movement. It begins gently, then the music accelerates, swerves through several tight turns, propelled by percussion. Pastoral flute turns whimsical, as low strings gradually and ominously arrive like storm clouds shading the sun. Suddenly, all the strings march in an implacable one-two meter, like an invading army, louder and louder. Big low brass notes reinforce the advance guard. Calm briefly returns, swept in on a light breeze of wind instruments, a brief respite before the low strings gradually surge, and all the instruments erupt, loud and fast, until the movement races to an abrupt halt.

Music brought them together. Jana Demartini was a 22-year-old folk dancer who met Tomas Svoboda when the 22-year-old percussionist joined their Prague folk music group in 1961. He and some other friends were sitting on the landing of a palace when he saw the troupe of women, bedecked in traditional costumes, climbing the stairs toward them, on their way to a performance. “And Tom was looking at me,” she remembers. “He was almost childlike: when he looked, he looked. I think that purity drew me to him.”

After a long period of getting to know each other, he offered to accompany her home from the school where she taught art and Russian. “We rode the tram and got off in front of our house, and he kissed me,” Demartini recalls, “and ran off!”

As their romance gradually blossomed, Svoboda began working on his second symphony, which Portland Youth Philharmonic premieres in Portland this Saturday — more than half a century after he wrote it.


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