The core of this mesmerizing program is an almost one-hour long composition by Stepan Rak that remains one of the most comprehensive songs ever written for solo guitar. The author allows for the guitar to fully resonate in each of its unexpected colors and shades, using his unique, world renowned, right-handed, five finger technique referred to around the world as “Rak trmelo”.
This composition is inspired by the famous novel by Jules Verne and is made up of eight parts:
Kapitán Nemo (tran. Captain Nemo)
Mobilis in mobili
Potopené město (City underwater)
Vše na elektřinu (Everything electric)
Korálové království (Coral kingdom)
Jižní pól (South Pole)
Plnou parou vpřed (Full-steam ahead)
Poslední slova kapitána Nemo (Captain Nemo’s last words)
The 2000 premier of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea sadly coincided with the Kursk Russian submarine tragedy in which the entire crew perished as the result of an explosion. This composition is also dedicated to the victims of that tragedy.
On March 16, 2001, Stepan Rak performed this piece in Moscow where he was the first ever guitarist to perform a solo concert at P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory.
The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea concert is almost always performed without an intermission and is usually accompanied by two other Rak favorites – Balalajka (Balalaika) and Píseň pro Davida (A Song for David).
Tea Cycles treats its audience to an entire evening emerged within a cycle of compositions dedicated to teas from around the world. This unique creation depicts some of the most specific fragrances and diversified flavors of tea.
Rak performs this show using fantasy and inspiration to draw his audiences nearer to otherwise far away destinations like the Siberian plains, the cashmere energy-filled, spiritual lands of India, continuing through the ethereal Orient and returning in a split second to the Czech Republic, where we are entranced in our own thoughts and overcome with the fragrance of an ode to tea inspired by Karel Hynek Mácha...
Individual pieces have been designed as contrasting, virtuosic creations, encompassing the most romantic sound and expression possible using a guitar. Rak’s composition presents a melodic tea masterpiece bringing to life flavors like Jasmine and Yogi, while taking his audience on a journey to distant places and making them feel as if they were actually in a mystical land, far far away.
The world of fragrances is fascinating. We remember them our entire lives and it is said that they accompany us through numerous incarnations where people and things either smell good or bad to us. Fragrance Cycles explores the diversity of many aromas and touches that magical side of our senses while leading us through a remarkable journey to the world of tones, where fragrance takes on a whole new meaning. Aside from the ring of specific fragrances like Lavender or Basil, audiences can hear pieces reminding them of the smell of autumn or the scent of home. One of Rak’s greatest inspirations has always been Dr. Zbyňek Šedivý, a doctor from a small village named Vlčí hory u Krásné lípy, where the good doctor’s wonderful Nobilis Tilia tea possesses aromatic and therapeutic healing powers. Throughout this show, Jan Rerich’s gift to the artist, a hand-carved, stone guitar, resounds with magical tones and a demonstrable healing influence on the soul. As with “Ode to Tea”, “Fragrance” is a praise to the gift of the senses that we have been gifted with.
This show is inspired by historical lute and vihuela music adapted in composition. Rearranged compilations have been influenced by Rak himself, a passionate lover of this style of music.
The program resonates with a vast range of compositions made up of two cycles: Dávných tanců (Dances from Long Ago) (approx. 25 min.) and Královské suity (Royal Entourages) (approx. 22 min.). Throughout this performance, one can also hear sounds of Renaissance music by mostly unknown artists and a sample of Czech Baroque adapted to solo guitar. This show is ideal for the noble interiors of castles and palaces, but will certainly be enjoyed at any venue with good acoustics.
In this show, Stepan Rak showcases the guitar in its many styles and genres from lute music of long ago to sounds of the Classical and Romantic eras, including even the various genres that branched from Classical. This show provides a rare musical experience that brings the audience sounds from the past and present, American Rock'n'Roll, notwithstanding.
This show can be adapted and performed as an educational concert.
John W. Duarte, one of the greatest legends to ever play the guitar, once wrote this about Stepan Rak: "Ludwig van Beethoven dreamed of a guitar that would sound like a small orchestra. Stepan Rak not only made that dream come true, he actually surpassed it.”
Stepan Rak has been repeatedly inspired by spiritual figures in his life. One of his most significant influences, whom he met while studying at a conservatory in Prague, was Prof. Stepan Urban (1913-1974). Thanks to his mentor’s selfless guidance, Rak is able to continue in the Steiner tradition and with music in his heart, set out on his own life’s journey, from which he passes on to us all that is wise, mysterious, beautiful and, for the most part, unknown.…
Certainly then, it is by no coincidence that on this path he meets someone who happens to be just as passionate as he is in his music. Jan Rerich, sculptor and mason, meet Stepan Rak – guitarist and composer. Thanks to this extraordinary pairing, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, in the form of a stone guitar, was introduced to the world; the former creating a body and giving it shape, the latter tuning and breathing life into this unique work of art.
Like the master key to a complicated lock, Rak opens the door to the musical mysteries of the stone world. Finally, after many millions of years, that which has been until now an unformed substance resonating with sounds from the heart of mother Earth herself, now emits tones and fills us with an energy revealed to us for the first time ever. The right hand of the Master strums her fragile stone soul, releasing her rare beauty and underlying harmony.
The healing energy emanating from stone has been harnessed since prehistoric times and our predecessors have always respected this awesome power. Today, the time has come for this power to reveal itself in all its intimacy, and to entrance us with its magnificent tones.
This stone guitar became Stepan Rak’s inspiration for the creation the musical cycle of Svět vůní (World of Fragrances). Thanks to his wildly creative imagination, inexhaustible musical spontaneity, and unique ability to improvise and play any style or genre, Rak is often inspired by otherwise unimaginable themes. World of Fragrances touches the magical side of our senses and brings us a remarkable world of tones where fragrance takes on an entirely new form. Aside from specific fragrances like Lavender or Rose, scents such as Vůně Podzimu (Autumn Aroma) resound from the artist’s fingers as he plays.
Samples in this show include:
Vůně podzimu (Autumn Aroma), Jasmínový čaj (Jasmine Tea), Heřmánková vůně (Fragrance of Chamomile), Darjeeling, Levandule (Lavander), Yogi čaj (Yogi Tea), Vůně lesa (Forest Aroma), Babiččina zahrádka (Grandma’s Garden) , Růže (Rose), Turecký čaj Rize (Turkish Tea Zest), Vůně letní louky (Scent of Spring Fields), Myrha (Myrrh)
Another one of Rak’s inspirations was his classmate, Jan Mares, who once was a student of Josef Zezulka, and who eventually introduced the artist to numerology. The vision of a seed that grows into a robust tree may open up before our very eyes if we water it diligently… …and then that tree bears its fruit. We were put on this earth to learn, grow, and feel.
Like the master key to a complicated lock, Rak opens the door to the musical mysteries of Numerology. The healing energy emanating from his tones embraces us and passes on to us spiritual tidings through the musical cycle that Stepan Rak himself created. This part of the Guitarotherapy ensemble is seemingly as fragrant as its name, The Fragrance Cycle, implies. The Fragrance Cycle touches that magical place in our minds and leads us to the equally extraordinary world of tones where fragrance takes on an entirely new dimension. Besides specific fragrances like “Lavender” or “Rose”, tones such as “Autumn Aroma” are also rung.
Fragrant tones in this ensemble include:
Autumn Aroma, Jasmine Tea, Fragrance of Chamomile, Darjeeling, Lavender, Yogi Tea, Forest Aroma, Grandma’s Garden, Rose, Turkish Tea Zest, Scent of Spring Fields, Myrrh
Ballad, poem and composition come together to take us on a make-believe journey to the zodiac, or rather to a few select astrological signs the artist is intuitively and altogether spontaneously inspired by. This entire show is a soothing experience that transcends one’s being with the permanence of the constellations.
There are we people we meet and walk right by. There are people we meet and stop to notice. Then there are those we meet and are sure we are close to, so close that nothing in the world could ever separate us from them. Stepan Rak had the good fortune of meeting one of these people. His name was Stepan Urban, a person whose spiritual strength was so great that its limits were impossible to humanly conceive.
For Rak, he was not only a patient teacher who taught him to play guitar, but a mentor who lent a helping hand and guided the artist on his way to introspection and understanding, to inner recognition of all that is spiritual and to the spectrum every soul we cross paths with in our lives. He led the aspiring musician to mystical lands, the likes of which appear to us only in our dreams, to places humankind has not yet set foot, where a spiritual spectrum of that enormous ghost embodies us, to the spiritual pillars of our human recognition. He was introduced to the riches of astrology; not as a cult science, but as a path to cognition up an imaginary stairway to which it was his destiny to be led, a path he must now take up alone and with each step of the way must come to know more and more laws and circumstances.
Astrology is not just a science. It is, first and foremost, an infinite source of panhuman recognition, ethical codes and wisdom encompassed by the twelve signs of the zodiac. Stepan Rak leads us through the dark and dramatic corners of the Scorpion soul in contrast with lyrical Pisces, to the epically tuned Capricorn and all the way through to pragmatic Virgo.
In 1995, Stepan Rak recorded an album that went by the same name, in which he presented his virtuoso adaptation of mostly famous hiking hymns. These musical renditions are solely instrumental and the artist proves that even simple melodies we know from singing around the campfire can be transcended into something highly artistic while maintaining the beauty of the original melody.
How little today’s Christmas season, with its hectic and lofty ideals, resembles the true meaning of Advent. Expectations of the coming of Christ with reminders of old traditions and a peaceful time are presented in Christmas Contemplation, an album to be adored by adults, young adults and children alike.
Beautiful carols delivered in the virtuoso rendition of Stepan Rak, with lyrics by K. J. Erben, K. V. Rais, J. V. Sladek, F. Sramek and V. Ctvrtek, inspire us to enjoy the most beautiful holiday season of the year in a unique atmosphere while returning us to the time of its roots.
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