Iva Bittová’s countryman Milan Kundera wrote how Europe’s “small
nations” form another Europe. The violinist-vocalist may be ‘small
nation’ Czech but her musical worldview and visionary creativity
acknowledge no borders. Her powers of spontaneous creativity are more
bountiful than it is fair to confer on one person. Witness and marvel.
[50 words] by Ken Hunt
Iva Bittová was born in 1958 in Bruntál in northern Moravia in what was then Czechoslovakia – and nowadays the Czech Republic. Both of her parents were musicians. Her mother Ludmila was a pre-school teacher who spent most of her life with her family; her father Koloman Bitto – Bittová is the surname’s female form – was a musician strongly influenced by the land of his birth – southern Slovakia. His main instruments were string bass, cimbalom, guitar, and trumpet. This exceptional ability to play almost any instrument he laid his hands on, whether performing in classical or folk music styles, proved a major influence on his three daughters as they grew up. Both of Iva’s sisters – her older sister Ida and her younger sister Regina – are professional drama and music performers.
Iva attended drama pre-school, specializing in violin and ballet. In due course she gained admittance to the Music Conservatory in Brno, often called the Czech Republic’s second city. She graduated in drama and music. During her studies, Iva took part-time engagements as an actress and musician in Brno’s Divadlo Husa na provázku (Goose On A String Theater). She cites these engagements as some of the most formative and influential of her life.
Around this time she also featured as an actress in radio, TV and movie productions. Later on, while working full time in theater, she re-kindled her interest in playing violin, an instrument she had set aside in her younger years. After her father’s early death, she decided to follow in his professional footsteps as an instrumentalist and by composing her own music.
In 1982, Iva started studying with Professor Rudolf Šťastný, the primarius (first violin) of the Moravian String Quartet. In the intervening years the violin has become her life’s passion and the most inspiring musical instrument in her professional life. Iva firmly believes that, as playing the violin places extreme demands on musicians, the composer’s work depends utterly on commitment and diligence.
After living in the countryside near Brno for 17 years, Iva decided to relocate her personal and professional life to the United States. In the Summer of 2007, she settled amid the splendors of nature in upstate New York. Iva shares her Hudson Valley home with her younger son Antonín (born 1991) – also a dedicated musician and another chip off the Bitto block.
In 2015 I finished my studies at the Academy of Ancient Music / Musicology at the Masaryk University in Brno and received a bachelor's degree.
A few words from Iva:
“For many years, I have worked in a range of musical genres, including jazz, rock, classical and opera. Deciding on a name for my style of music is far from over yet. Whatever it is, many of my listeners have long considered it highly original. It has always been everyday life that inspired my music and interpretations. Its inspiration has been total silence and an absolutely positive atmosphere. Those are the most important conditions and surroundings in which when my ideas spring into life. I believe they have a significant impact on my music.”
“The violin accompanies me all the time. Everything around me is under its influence. There are difficult pieces to practice from which I gain discipline, confidence, and self–control – and a healthy measure of doubt. The violin is a mirror reflecting my dreams and imagination. I believe there are fundamentals to my performance, such as the music’s vibration and resonance between violin and my voice. Their ‘symphony’ leads me on to perfection, even though I know it never can be attained.”
- 1978 – principal acting role playing the part of Jolanka in director Dušan Hanák’s motion picture Růžové sny (English title: Rose-tinted Dreams) (Czechoslovakia), presented at The International Film Festival in Tehran (Iran) and awarded Best Original Screenplay
- 1979 – principal acting role as Eržika in director Vladimír Sís’ film Balada pro banditu (English title: Ballad for a Bandit) (Czechoslovakia) presented at the Hradec Králové (Czechoslovakia) Film Festival and Best Actress in a Leading Role award
- 2004 – principal acting role as Žeňa in Ondřej Trojan’s motion picture Želary (Czech Republic), nominated for 76th Annual Academy Award (Oscar) in the category Best Foreign Language Film
- 2006 – violin-and-voice soloist in James Kent’s BBC (Great Britain) music documentary Holocaust – a Music Memorial film from Auschwitz awarded the prize for Best Music Document 2006 in New York
- 2006 – lead female role as Julia in Alice Nellis’ motion picture Tajnosti (‘Secrets’) (English title: Little Blue Girl) (Czech Republic).
Little blue girl awards
- Český Lev 2008 Praha CZ /nomination for best actress, movie of the year/
- Finale 2008 Plzeň CZ /movie of the year/
- Slnko v sieti 2008 Bratislava SK /best actress/
- Inernational film festival Syracuse NY USA 2008 /best actress, director, editor/
- Several records in the Czech(oslovakian) music charts
- Record of the Year 1988 – Bittová & Fajt (1987) by Panton Publishing Co., (Czechoslovakia)
- Four awards from the Czech Musical Academy for Record of the Year
- Several awards from the Czech Musical Academy for Singer of the Year
- Winner of the 2006 Brno-Top 100 Chart as Personality of the Year
- Live performances at national State Ceremonies, such as the 1999 Hrad performance with the Škampa Quartet for president by Václav Havel and such guests as George Bush Jnr, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher.
A musical miscellany
Performances and collaborations with other musicians
Antonín Fajt, Barbara Maria Willi, Bill Frisell, BOAC All Stars, Bobby McFerrin, Calder Quartet, David Dorůžka, David Krakauer, David Moss, DJ Javas, Don Byron, Dorothea Kellerová, Emil Viklický, Ethel Quartet, František Emmert, Fred Frith, George Mraz, Hamit Drake, Ida Kelarová, Ivo Viktorin, Jaromír Honzák, Jiří Bulis, Jiří Stivín, Košická filharmonie, Lelky – girl chorus, Lisa Moore, Marc Ribot, Marek Eben, Marek Štryncl, Miloš Štědroň, Miloš Valent, Netherlands Blazers Ensemble and Kumštýři z ochoty, Pavel Fajt, Phil Milton, Pierre Favre, Richard Müller, Solamente Naturali, Susumu Yokota, Škampa Quartet, Tom Cora, Vladimír Godar, Vladimír Václavek
Remarkable settings for Iva Bittová’s performances
Prague, Rudolfinum – Dvořák’s Auditorium; Brussels – Le Botanique; Amsterdam – Concertgebouw; Barcelona – Museum J. Miro; Tokyo – Radio FM Hall; London – Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room; New York – Carnegie Hall; Paris – Le Cigale; Dolomites (Italy) – a performance at the altitude of 2000 meters above sea level; Moravský Kras – Cave Kateřina
translantion Ken Hunt, David Olša