Beata Hlavenková, a pianist, composer, singer, arranger and producer, is one of the most distinctive contemporary women musicians with an unmistakable authorial voice that transcends individual genres. If we are looking for a single word that would describe her best, it is “courage”: courage to experiment and to look for unconventional harmonies and arrangements. The genre freedom—supported by deep knowledge of jazz, modern classical music, pop and song-writing—blends together in all her projects with a clearly recognisable concentrated and sensitive interpretation. The centre of all this is made up of “music full of spark that just won’t go out”, as the music publicist Tomáš S. Polívka said.
She studied composition at the Janáček Conservatory in Ostrava, followed by three years at the Conservatory of Jaroslav Ježek, finishing her studies in 2004 with an MM from the University of Massachusetts in composition, jazz composition and arrangement. During her studies in the U.S., she was picked for the residential programme Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (2002).
She has six solo records to her name. Joy For Joel (2009), the piano record Theodoros (2013), also the albums Scintilla (2015), Bethlehem (2017) and albums of songs and poems set to music called Sně (2019) and Žijutě (2021). All the records were nominated for the Anděl award and two records were successful and won (Theodoros, Sně).
Her significant collaborations include her work with Lenka Dusilová which led to the albums Eternal Seekers (2008), Lenka Dusilová and Baromantika (2011 and 2014).
In 2004, she released her first album of jazz compositions and at the same time founded an authorial project called S’aight with her husband, guitarist Patrik Hlavenka (Patrick Karpentski). In 2006–2013 she was the lead in her own jazz trio, and since the release of her acclaimed album Theodoros in 2013 she has been mostly playing solo both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Together with Lenka Dusilová, she has created truly original long-term projects: Eternal Seekers where she played with Clarinet Factory, as well as two records with the Baromantika project. In parallel, she devotes herself to collaborations with personalities such as Iva Bittová. Jiří Havelka, David Ondříček, David Koller, Jaromír Honzák, Petr Nikl, Vladivojna La Chia, Věra Martinová, Petr Ostrouchov, Dorota Barová, Dagmar Voňková, Vojtěch Nýdl, Oto Klempíř, Justin Lavash or the dance group VerTeDance and others.
She recorded her first authorial album Joy for Joel (2009) in the U.S. with musicians such as Ingrid Jensen, Rich Perry and others. The album was followed by a solo piano record Theodoros, for which she received the Anděl award in the Jazz and Blues category. The sound-rich Scintilla (Animal Music, 2015) included for example the cello player Jiří Bárta, the clarinet player Evana Zyporyna (Paul Simon, Bang on a Can), the Norwegian percussionist Kenneth Ekornes (Mari Boine) and others. In addition, the solo piano album Bethlehem (Animal Music, 2017) proves that Hlavenková is able to give an entirely new perspective also on traditional material like Christmas carols.
In 2019, the record Sně (Animal Music) came out and showed her as a singer for the first time. The record brought her the Anděl award in the Performer of the Year 2019 category and the Jantar Award.
The current album Žijutě with many guests, for example, David Stypka, Ota Klempíř or Rich Perry, was released in October 2021 by Minority Records and follows Sně. This time, Hlavenková introduces herself more in the role of a lyricist, the entire record reflects her fondness of modern sound design. The vinyl edition of Žijutě received special attention, the vinyl mastering was done in the Abbey Road studios in London by Miles Showell, who also worked on albums by Amy Winehouse, Tori Amos or Dua Lipa.
You can find Hlavenková also on other records or collaborations with different musicians, for example, Iva Bittová, Dagmar Andrtová Voňková, David Koller, Justin Lavash, Věra Martinová, Jaromír Honzák, newer records include names such as Oto Klempíř, Zuzana Mikulcová, Juraj Benetin and others.
She composes music for film (Dukla 61, Zátopek, The King of Šumava: The Phantom of the Dark Land) and theatre (e.g. Flow: VerTeDance, directed by Jiří Havelka) as well as for children (Pišlické příběhy, Ó, ó, ó, vajíčko, the puppet ensemble Bajka of the Těšín theatre), and she also works as a music producer (Vojta Nýdl: Dítě z větru).
She was nominated for the Český lev 2021 award for soundtrack to the movie Zátopek in the Best Music category. In spring of 2022, she was nominated for the Český lev 2022 award in the Best Music category for the series The King of Šumava: The Phantom of the Dark Land.
Since her beginnings, her music career has also included teaching. She teaches at the New York University in Prague, formerly also at the Conservatory of Jaroslav Ježek and at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno where, together with Patrik Hlavenka, she founded the very first university programme for jazz music in the Czech Republic. For several years, she has been a mentor at the MenART Academy. She believes that music education of children and students needs revising and more emphasis should be placed on specialisation, on working with the students’ talent, and on teaching them how to enjoy music: marking and fear of assessment need to be put aside. Teaching thus should take the form of effective and helpful guidance, the students should be motivated to perform music and create independently, and thanks to this, they would become educated and joyful listeners.
She releases her albums on CDs and vinyl under the labels Animal Music and Minority Records.
You can currently see her performing solo, in a chamber ensemble or with Kapela Snů or in the Archa theatre in the show called Piano Babylon with Petr Nikl and Michal Nejtek.
- S’aight (2004)
- Eternal Seekers (2008)
- Joy For Joel (2009)
- Theodoros (2013)
- Baromantika – V hodině smrti (2014)
- Scintilla (2015)
- Pišlické příběhy (2015)
- Bethlehem (2017)
- Sně (2019)
- Zátopek (2021)
- Žijutě (2021)
- Lenka Dusilová – Baromantika (2011) – co-producer, co-author, player
- Iva Bittová – Zvon (2013) – arranger, author, player
- Ó,ó,ó, vajíčko – (2019) – co-author, player
- Dagmar Voňková – Archa (2020) – arranger, player
- Vojtěch Nýdl – Dítě z větru (2021) – music producer, co-author, player
“I re-played the album several times to find out if my enthusiasm peters out eventually – but I still believe that this is the one really extraordinary occurrence on the Czech music scene,“ (album Joy For Joel)
“Pianist and composer Beata Hlavenková made a musical parable about how to exceed the average. Her Scintilla album shines forth on the whole European scene.”
“She demonstrates throughout, remarkable poise between exuberance and introspection, technical virtuosity and stylistic simplicity, conservatory and spontaneity, the pieces showcasing her exquisite timing, delicacy and command of the keys in myriad styles from minimalism to Debussy-esque impressionism with touches of jazz among the many details revealed with each listen. Housed in a handsome calendar with images of extracted piano parts, the album’s context is complete and compelling, and nothing is overdone in deed or sentiment, making it safe to conclude that Hlavenková’s gift is our gift also.” (album Theodoros)
“I’ve been listening to the recorded output of Beata Hlavenková for a number of years now. I was first introduced to her work via the album Theodoros by my mastering engineer, Tony Cousins, a man with impeccable taste, and it struck me as a rare example of someone working between genres, with a beautifully innate, but restrained, melodicism, extraordinary acuity, and remarkable, seemingly effortless, dexterity. Her performance on that album, although not derivative in any way, reminded me a little of Sakamoto’s earlier piano stylings, possibly in its diversity and aesthetics as much as anything, which is a rare comparison for me to make, a compliment I couldn’t afford many pianists.
Since that time Beata and I have communicated frequently and I’ve kept abreast of her work as composer, instrumentalist, orchestrator and, more recently, vocalist. Her talent allows her to excel in a variety of music genres whilst her own work tends to defy clear definition.
I remain curious as to where her, as yet untapped potential, will take Beata from here.”
“Bethlehem is an album that will enter in history due to its tenderness, humility, desire and unbridled joy. Her humanness is palpable, the atmosphere absolutely unique. To enter the music world of Beata Hlavenková is to stare mystery and miracle face to face.”