Happy 80th birthday to Jiri Hlinka!

Photo: Thor Brødreskift

The founder of Prof Jiri Hlinka Piano Academy becomes 80 years on the 21 March.

Born in Prague in 1944, became a Norwegian citizen in 1982. In his youth he studied with Professor Frantisek Rauch and Professor Josef Pálenícek. In 1964, when Professor Henryk Neuhaus was visiting the Academy of Music in Prague, Jirí Hlinka had the honour to play for him at a private concert. Neuhaus took great interest in the young Czech pianist and arranged for him to be periodically tutored by Svjatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. His career blossomed, and he performed from the age of 17 with many of the leading orchestras in Europe. Jirí Hlinka was awarded a Piano Diploma from Academy of Music in Prague, and in 1966 he was one of the finalists of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.

Tragedy struck this immensely talented musician three years later when he contracted a chronic medical condition in his arms, and, after an unsuccessful operation, he was forced to abandon his glittering solo career. This malady still only allows him to play for short periods at time. However this tragedy opened up another career at which he has become justly renowned.

In 1970 he took up the Professorship at the Conservatory in Prague, and in 1972 moved to Bergen where he became the leading piano pedagogue at the Musikkonservatorium. Many of his students are among the most illustrious pianists in Scandinavia. One of his students, Leif Ove Andsnes, has become a world name. Hlinka’s teaching has been recognised by two prestigious awards – the Lindeman Prize and the Bergen Forum of Arts and Culture award in 1992. June 15th 1995, on the composers birthday, he received the prestigious Grieg Prize in Bergen.
But before he was forced to abandon his career, Jirí Hlinka made some excellent recordings: Prokofiev’s two Piano sonatas – No. 2 in D minor and No. 6 in A major. The Liszt’s Sonata in B minor was also recorded in 1987 released by VNP on LP.

In spite of being unable to manage the gruelling schedule demanded of a concert pianist, Jirí Hlinka has always continued to be completely committed to the importance of playing piano, and has nurtured his virtuosity and technique as much as his disability allows. Because of this dedication, he is now able to make recordings. With the intimateknowledge of the music, a perfect recording can take place on the first playing. Thus, once again, we are privileged to be able to hear this remarkable pianist.
In December 1994 VPN presented the CD “Hlinka plays Haydn”, six months later a new release with the music of Tchaikovsky and in 1999 even one with the music of Janacek and Satie.
But Hlinka’s main interest is within music education. In 1996 an International committee appointed him as professor in piano. Now he teaches at Barratt-Due Institute of Music in Oslo. In addition he gives master classes in piano all over Europe.

In 2004 he was awarded the Kings Order of Merit in gold, in recognition of his many valuable years of service to the Norwegian music community.In June 2007, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Karel Schwarzenberg handed the GRATIAS AGIT 2007 award (the “Jan Masaryk Award”) over to professor Jiri Hlinka. This award is given to outstanding personalities and organisations that have contributed in a significant way to the presentation of the Czech Republic abroad.