85% as reviewed by Veronika Vlachová


Pianist and composer Beata Hlavenková has has been on the scene for some time now (she was a regular feature in Prague jazz clubs with her trio, later to be The Eternal Seekers). Yet her exposure to a wider audience came first with her work with her friend Lenka Dusilová and their project Baromantika (in which Viliam Béreš and husband Patick Karpentski (aka Patrik Hlavenka) also perform), or her work with Iva Bittová. In her latest work, Theodoros, Hlavenková shows herself to be a self-assured soloist who loves her life.

The start of 2009 saw Beata Hlavenková working with some of the most interesting musicians on the Czech jazz scene. Joy for Joel contained her own jazz-based compostions, on which she worked with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist Rich Perry. At that time she was devoting her time not only to her jazz trio, but also to her son Mathias Joel, after whom she named her first album.

Following in line, the second album, entirely self-composed, refers to the name of her second-born, Theodor Eli. The new album Theodoros marks not only a maternal milestone in crossover compositions from an excellent pianist but also a change in attitude towards life. „Theodoros“ means „gift of God” in Greek. Hlavenková sees this gift as life itself – thus years, months and days. For this reason her second release contains twelve pieces, each named after a month of the year and with its characteristic mood. This is musical territory that cannot be classified by genre. At the beginning of her career, she was perceived as a jazz pianist. She helped to found the department of jazz interpretation at the Janáček Arts Academy in Brno and her work with Lenka Dusilová on their Baromantika project and also with Iva Bittová carried her a step further. It’s true that she may have deserted jazz, but on Theodoros this could well be a strong advantage.

Twelve compositions stretching over a wide spectrum of styles from jazz improvisation through to minimalism and classical music with traces of impressionism (Aprilios, Dekemvrios), lighthearted song-melody (Maios), and meditative pieces (Ianouaris). Each piece is coherent, considered and mature. It’s like a modernist composer’s drawer overturned. Hlavenková’s opuses underline her mastery of the keyboard, which achieves a magical mixture of gentle lines and tumultuous, thrundering tonal clusters.

Theodoros consists of compositions which cleverly do not exceed four minutes. Nevertheless they achieve with awareness a depiction of the mood of each individual month as perceived by the artist herself. Although Hlavenková performs these songs to the listener alone at the piano, this enables varied layering, causing vivid richness and gentle diversity in sound, whilst preserving the ambience of the acoustic piano.

With her second offering, Beata Hlavenková has indeed gained victory. She approaches the material with maternal tenderness and strict precision whilst maintaining the need for playfulness and lightness. I believe that this second album might be even more impressive live. For that we’ll have to wait until next year, when Hlavenková is planning to go on tour.22