Contemporary classical music encompasses an exciting and variegated world that is well worth exploring. Many long to be initiated into it, yet they have run across obstacles resulting from the ongoing obfuscation of terms and values. The CONTEMPULS festival strives to provide an insight into the real world of contemporary music without giving in to compromises and resorting to superficial effects.
Our philosophy is to give consistent preference to the quality of performance and to critically select the compositions to be presented. That is why the festival organisers have above all invited leading foreign ensembles and soloists, artists who are entirely dedicated to performing contemporary music. Consequently, Prague audiences can savour the current international creations, presented in top quality. The festival programmes have also included new pieces by Czech composers, who have thus been afforded the chance to work with superlative foreign performers. CONTEMPULS has regularly commissioned new works and also provided young Czech ensembles with the opportunity to introduce themselves within the international context.
The experience gained throughout the nine years of the festival’s history has confirmed that this simple strategy has borne fruit, with the outcome being the gradually expanding community of enthusiastic and permanent fans from among the ranks of listeners and musicians alike, many of whom have carried away an invaluable experience in the form of extended musical awareness. CONTEMPULS is thus becoming one of the cells of the nervous system of contemporary music, stretching worldwide, and constituting a pulsating environment, which duly inspires new ideas, provides a platform for people to get together, agree on collaboration, an environment in which discoveries are made and revelations occur, new works are engendered, performances are given, and extraordinary enjoyment is shared.
The festival was founded by the Czech Music Information Centre (HIS), a non-profit non-governmental organisation, which organised CONTEMPULS from 2008 to 2016. The first seven editions, whose programmes were compiled by Petr Bakla, aimed to bring to Prague renowned international ensembles and soloists, as well as to afford the opportunity to lesser-known promising young artists. This tradition was linked up to by a new programme director, Josef Třeštík, who prepared the festival’s eighth edition, and who has held the position up to the present day. In 2017, following agreement with and consent from HIS, and led by the same team, the festival became independent. From 2018 onwards, the festival will be organised by the Contempuls society.
The globally famous ensembles who have performed at the festival include Klangforum Wien, Arditti Quartet, musikFabrik, ensemble recherche, Ensemble Linea, Ensemble Talea, Xasax, Quatuor Diotima, Mosaik, Slowind, Phace, Trio Accanto, Yarn/Wire, ascolta, Trio Catch, POING and others, with some of them having appeared on several occasions. In addition to concerts given by instrumental orchestras, the CONTEMPULS audiences have heard, for instance, the unforgettable Neue Vokalsolisten Stuttgart and the multimedia performance of Miguel Azguime. When it comes to the Czech ensembles, the festival has repeatedly hosted Prague Modern, Fama Quartet, MoEns, as well as the international Ostravská banda. The soloists who have given recitals in Prague include Daan Vandewalle, Emanuele Torquati, Steffen Schleiermacher, Eric Wubbels, the guitarist Magnus Andersson, the trombonist Mike Svoboda, the double-bassist Uli Fussenegger, the bass-clarinettist Gareth Davis, the cellists Rohan de Saram and Jiří Bárta, the harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and the japanese pianist Satoko Inoue. In 2014, CONTEMPULS featured for the first time an orchestral concert of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia, conducted by Marko Ivanović.
Every year, the festival has commissioned new works from contemporary composers, who have to date included Michal Nejtek, Jana Vöröšová, Luboš Mrkvička, Tomáš Pálka, Petr Kofroň, František Chaloupka, Ondřej Štochl, Marián Lejava, Pavel Zemek, Šimon Voseček, Miroslav Srnka and Jakub Rataj.
For financial reasons, CONTEMPULS did not take place in 2015 and 2017. The festival’s eleventh edition had to be canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.