Internationally the Czech writer Karel Capek is best known as the inventor (together with his brother Josef) of the term “robot” in his 1920 play R.U.R. With his novels, stories and plays combining humour, satire and a strong humanist vision, Karel Capek was hugely popular in pre-war Czechoslovakia. But this was a time when Hitler’s Germany was casting a dark shadow over Central Europe and it is hardly surprising that one of the few recordings of Capek in our archives - speaking on Christmas Eve 1937 - does not bear a cheerful message.
Jaroslav Jezek, who died in wartime exile in New York at the age of just 35, is one of the legends of twentieth century Czech music. He is best known for the songs he composed for the famous pre-war satirical cabaret, the Liberated Theatre, and he was also one of the pioneers of Czech jazz, fearlessly crossing the borders between popular and classical music. In November 1934, the young composer – he was 28 at the time - came into the radio and talked about jazz.
In the 1930s Prague was a modern city, with a passion for innovation. New buildings were springing up, celebrating the technology of steel, chrome and glass, jazz and swing were playing on the radio, and despite the impact of the world economic crisis, the Czech love of the motor-car was growing fast. One of the gems in our pre-war archives is a report from 1st January 1936 on the city's first traffic light. The intrepid reporter is standing at a busy Prague crossroads, and we hear the traffic roaring around him.
Over the next six months we'll be looking at some of the most fascinating recordings to be found down in the Czech Radio basement. Czech - and previously Czechoslovak - Radio has been archiving its material since way back in the 1920s, and has built up one of the richest radio archives in the world, surviving war, invasion and even a German aerial torpedo in May 1945. We start the series with our very earliest recording, the first Czechoslovak President, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, talking 79 years ago, on 28th October 1928. President Masaryk was born
Starting next Thursday, our colleague David Vaughan will be introducing new series entitled From the Archives. As the name suggest he'll be dusting off some of the many unique recordings to be found in the archives of the Czech Radio. I asked David what drew him to explore the archives in the first place.
Today we bring you an interview with Radio Prague's listener Costas Constantinides from Cyprus. We also speak about the legendary Czech-born tennis player Ivan Lendl and decathlon world record holder Roman Sebrle. We quote from e-mails sent by Christine Takaguchi-Coates from Japan and Narayanan Kalyanam from India.
The historic Czech Radio building, part of the broader Czech Radio complex found on Prague's Vinohradska and Rimska streets, has officially closed its doors for renovation. A special ceremony was held at the building shortly after 11 am on Friday. It was headed by the director of Czech Radio Vaclav Kasik and attended by several hundred on-lookers. Czech Radio's Vinohradska address witnessed some of the most important events in 20th century Czech history, including fighting at the end of World War II and resistance to invading Warsaw Pact troops in 1968. Renovation work at the radio building is expected to cost 500 million crowns and should be completed in two years' time.
The Czech Radio building has stood on Vinohradska Street for the last 75 years, and witnessed the rise and fall of the First Republic, the Nazi occupation, and then communism. The building itself has featured heavily in recent Czech history, with vicious battles being fought in its vicinity at the end of World War II, and Russian tanks and civilians clashing there again in 1968. But in all of these 75 eventful years of operation, the building has not been renovated once, and now it is in need of a 500 million CZK facelift. On Friday, the building