Zdeněk Trnka (*18.7.1925 - †19.2.2019), pedagogue by profession, has pursued various musical interests and activities throughout all his life - as an interpreter, musical events promoter and primarily as a composer. Music became his greatest passion during his high school years in Beroun, where he studied concord under prof. Ferdinand Vodička (Vítězslav Novák’s student) and played in a student string quartet (together with later successful musicians, Czech Philharmonic violist K. Fidler and Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra winds player M. Pospíšil). Beroun environment had profound impact on developing his arts attitude when being introduced to famous conductor Václav Talich and poet Jaroslav Seifert (first ever Czech literature Nobel laureate).
In 1944 Trnka successfully passed exams to Prague conservatory, but unfortunately history has changed his plans – school was closed by the Nazi, concerts were restricted and existential reasons of his family made him prioritize manual labour to music. After the World War he decided to study at the Charles University, Faculty of Philosophy, which predetermined his long and respectful career as high school professor of Czech language and Music (Trutnov, Hostinné, Úpice). During the era of so called communist normalization, as result of his disagreement with Soviet occupation army intervention, he was forced to leave school and once again turn to manual labour in a machine works factory, but after liberalization of the situation in the Czech Republic, he returned back to school where he stayed until his 80 year of age.
The urge of musical education has always been very strong – during his university years, he studied composition under prof. František Pícha from the Academy of Performing Arts and he continuously self-studied all his life and still keeps remarkable interest in every subject related to music. Trnka has earned valuable experience from contacts with great individualities not only from the musical field, for example: Pavel Bořkovec, Alexandr Plocek, Alfréd Holeček, Václav Snítil or Jan Pěruška. List of his musical and concert promoting activities is ample. In Úpice, he founded and for many years led a string quartet. For more than 30 years, together with Z. Šumník, conducted mixed choir Foerster – Smetana, in which he performed as a soloist. Among other pieces, he staged all choirs from Smetana’s opera Rusalka with soloists from National Theatre. He conducted and led dramaturgy of chamber orchestras in Trutnov and Hostinné, worked with student ensembles, conducted St. Jakub Větší church choir in Úpice and later accepted offer to lead Czechoslovakian Hustite church choire in the same town. For many years, he hosted classical music concerts in Trutnov and for various institutions and organizations he held classical music lectures where he interpreted music composition. He is occasionally conducting and hosting adult education until today.
Work of Zdeněk Trnka that has been composed for more than 60 years is extensive and formally diverse. He began with small compositions for solo instruments, songs and choirs but advanced to composing chamber music. He composed many pieces for women’s, men’s and mixed choirs and pinnacle of his work are his operas. Vocal compositions have among all his works special significance, as they are related to his own solo singing, many years’ work with choirs and to his sense of melody and rhythm of language. His great passion for poetry allowed him to set many pomes of famous poets to music (Seifert, Neruda, Vrchlický, Kainar, Skácel, Hora) as well as he set to music various biblical texts and folk songs. Librettos of his operas were written by himself according to Shakespear’s, Calderon’s and Nezval’s texts.
Trnka’s works have been so far performed mainly in East Bohemian region – at concerts, chamber music evenings, in churches during Christmas or Easter and at other cultural events. His compositions were played by various amateur and professional musicians (Stamic string quartet, sopranist G. Jelínková - Podnecká, pianist V. Bauerová). Ironic is, that communist’s regime representatives, during the years of persecution when he was not allowed to work at school as a teacher, “rewarded” Trnka for his intensive cultural and musical activity, with restrictions and bans of public performance of his music including neglecting his name on posters and concert programs.
Trnka’s music was also performed abroad: in Ljubljana radio (wind quintet), by Polish philharmonics in Kamenná Gora (string quartet), by Church choir from Jemnice in Florence. His work gained publicity also due to the fact, that his opera Atlantida is together with his other orchestral and vocal pieces included in the university library at the faculty of composition at the Tokyo College of Music in Japan and the concert “Písně Zdeňka Trnky a Verše Jaroslava Seiferta” (Zdeněk Trnka’s songs and Jaroslav Seifert’s poems) to be staged 25th Septembre 2013 in Trutnov was presented at One Young World conference in Pittsburgh, USA.