Iva Bittova is a very talented entertainer that specializes in singing, playing the violin, composing, and performing in an avant-garde fashion. As a child in her home country of the Czech Republic, Iva was exposed to music at a young age, as her parents were both very active in the professional music scene. Throughout her youth, Iva had a very diverse educational upbringing in not only the musical arts, but also in the acting, dance, and drama side as well. She started out her professional career as an actress appearing in several Czech feature films and other various stage productions. Eventually, Iva went back to her violin roots and returned to music. She returned to the Conservatory of Brno to continue her education and also study violin with Rudolf Šťastný. Iva experimented in all types of music: rock, pop, classical, avant-garde. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of her craft not only as a violinist, but as a vocalist as well. Today, Iva makes her home in the Hudson Valley in New York and is a very sought-after musician. Throughout her career she has performed in the world's most prestigious venues and has worked with world class ensembles, orchestras, composers, and musicians. She is now considered a hero in her native country. I recently corresponded with Iva about her prolific career.
R.V.B - Congratulations on your career up to this point... aren't the arts wonderful?
Iva - Thank you so much, I am still on my journey, still in progress to build up career, with music it is everlasting process.
The arts are amazing but there are many aspects that human beings just don’t understand. I believe artists are not supported enough and in some case degraded professionally and that is very bad. With the arts you can use your imagination. Art is a bread and a treat!
R.V.B. - When you were a little girl growing up in the former Czechoslovakia, what were your surroundings like? Did you live in town or in the country? What kind of music was flowing around the house?
Iva - In my musical family, we grew up being exposed to different folk music, classic jazz and classical music... without any borders of style. I was just living and enjoying life - playing with friends and family. My family lived far from the capital city... mostly in the country. I have many wonderful memories of that time period.
R.V.B. - With your father being very musical and you having two other sisters, how was it decided who would play what instrument? What kind of formal lessons did you have through your grade school years? Did you spend equal time with music as with drama or did you favor one over the other at the time?
Iva - The dream of my father was that I will be as a violinist. I started lessons on the violin when I was 7 years old, but during my teenager period of life, I was really looking into experiences as a young girl and I decide to stop practicing! My mother was smart and she decide to merge my knowledge into a music drama conservatory, so, I was still following art, but I was never happy as a actor. Then after my father died, I decided to flow his blood and start to practice my violin again. I was 21...
R.V.B. - Did political turmoil have any effect on your learning years, being in the hotbed geographical area?
Iva - Oh yes, there was such a pressure of negative atmosphere on the artistic field. But I have to say, at the same time, there was quite important voltage on whole situation during communism. Many artists used their power to create strong and powerful ideas against the political system. As a result we acquired an amazing amount of underground treasures.
R.V.B. - Did the Beatles and the rock and roll era influence your playing at all?
Iva - Not really. The Beatles were inspired by baroque music,… but of course not only that… also a mixture of Indian ragas... it was also an inspiration for many artists.
I was trying to focus on my own style in the beginning. Most of time I was practicing classical music on the violin and trying to develop my technique. This allowed me to be absolutely free with my composition and creating sound with voice.
Iva - That was a time to gain a bit of knowledge. I started to be very active already in my 1st year and I was busy in movies, radio, and theater much of the time. It was a very exciting time to be practicing my arts. After my graduation, I started working as a professional actor. I did not want to go to the university at that time, because it was really crazy with the audition: They said "You should know more about Marx and Leninism, than to be talented woman". But these days I am back to my studies. I just received my Bachelors degree recently at Masaryk University in Brno, and I'm able to incorporate more knowledge into my work.
R.V.B. - Can you describe how you enjoyed working in the theater and what type of roles you may of had?
Iva - I learned to be versatile and diverse in drama, music, comedy, language, styles, all just important for me to be sure on stage, so happy, so lucky!
R.V.B. - Was there any spark that set you back on course to go back to concentrating on the violin?
Iva - I was always staying involved on the side and I continued create music. Singing was, and still is, my communication with myself and also with surroundings. The difficulties I had with the violin started to diminish the more I practiced. I started to add to the sound of instrument to sound of my voice.
Iva - A lot of instruments came to me from different sides. Right now I have one for my baroque playing with lower pitch, which comes from my friend in Germany. I just got a classic instrument recently from another friend... Jan Hus Bursík ... he's a violin maker from Brno. He was also good friend of my father. You see, here is another circle…
R.V.B. - I see on your resume that you have been involved in many different genres? Do you feel that this kind of experience has helped shape your style today?
Iva - Absolutely, you have more choices, more colors of sound, meaning, it's just like knowing different languages. I am so pleased, to create music with artist from all different directions. It is a gift!
R.V.B. - You've performed at an impressive array of Venues: Concertgebouw, Miro Museum, Dvorak's Auditorium, and Carnegie hall, just to name a few... Are there any performances that really stand out in your mind?
Iva - I have beautiful memories that come from stages like on the lake, on the mountains, on the fields, in main, in cave, chapels, all different, just connected by nature and history.
R.V.B. - Is there any particular size ensemble or orchestra that you prefer to perform in, or are they all equal?
Iva - The invitations that I receive usually come spontaneously, there is no particular wish. All experiences with orchestra and ensembles are extremely important.
Iva - That kind of work is completely different and it should be much longer discussion. I prefer direct contact with listeners, but studio work is a challenge and creative space also, but in different way.
R.V.B. - What made you decide to live in the United States? How did you wind up in New York?
Iva - The ensemble Bang on a Can from NYC ask me to cooperate. I was also invited to SummerScape Music Festival at Bard College, Fisher Centre at 2003 and I just felt in love with Hudson Valley nature. That was considerable situation. Also I try to escape a bit from small Czech country, because of my fame and try to be hidden in nature and focus on my own creativity.
R.V.B. - How do you enjoy all the traveling that comes with being a professional violinist and singer? Do you take in museums and sites in the different areas you go to?
Iva - I have to travel to play live to the audience, I am getting more tired with traveling. Also all travel companies they make it whole process of moving much a cold, they have to disdain with travelers. All is about money, so expensive, looks like whole business strategy is going to serve robots.
Iva - If some circumstances comes and I cannot make music anymore, I will try to do craft connected by nature and save a little piece of planet.
R.V.B. - What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Iva - Arnold Schönberg - Pierrot Lunaire vocal part “Sprechstimme” would be my next repertoire. Rajasthan project with Marc Sinan and Dresden Philharmonic orchestra, then new CD with my acoustic quartet Čikori. Program at MIT with Evian trio and MIT Jazz ensemble in Boston. That’s what I have going on for my next few months with music, plus my spring semester at Masaryk University in Brno.
R.V.B. - You've been rewarded with many awards from your peers and the industry, in both theater and music... how do you feel about that honor?
Iva - As my father said, it is more important to be good, than to be famous, so there is of course unbridled delight with awards, but at same time there is growing responsibility for quality of my work, which is my priority.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview and it's content may not be reproduced in any part of form without permission from this site.
For more information on Iva Bittova visit her website. www.bittova.com
For more information or to advertise on this site contact musicguy247(at)aol(dot)com
Musicguy247 has thousands of rare music items on Amazon... records, tapes, videos, books, CD's and more. Click here to view items