Jan-acek? Ja-nAH-cek? I’ve often wondered how to pronounce his name so as to avoid minor faux pas when supping on canapés in Glyndebourne (perhaps as a future, richer self, at least). I had the chance to get the definitive answer from Czech conductor Jakub Hrusa, whom I interviewed last Saturday. It was meant to be a light opener to our conversation, but it was fascinating to see how seriously he took it. We had five minutes of linguistic analysis, ending with the entire audience practising accents.
So. You always accent the first syllable of a Czech word, apparently. Then we have an accent on the second ‘a’, which is less about weight and more about length. ‘Yan’ has a punch to it, whilst the ‘ah’ takes on a pleasing lilt. It’s rather subtle, and the main thing is to spend time on each syllable, it seems. Or avoid saying his name altogether, which was quite a challenge for the interview. Oh, and don’t forget to roll the ‘r’ in Dvorák.