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Praga Rosa Bohemiae / Cappella Mariana


Release Date: 09/06/2019 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 4273  
Composer:  Petrus WilhelmiHeinrich IsaacJohannes TouroutJacob Obrecht,   ... 
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Two centuries after the prosperous era of Charles IV, Prague enjoyed its second Golden Age, under the reign of the art-loving Emperor and King Rudolf II, as it became a busy cultural centre, attracting artists from all over Europe. Like in a melting pot, a variety of musical styles mingled together in the city: the Franco-Flemish polyphony, represented by the world’s most accomplished composer at the time, as well as the vigorous tradition of literary brotherhoods with the archaic polyphonic repertoire of the previous generations. The focal point of the album is the recently rediscovered Prague manuscript of polyphonic masses, with the fabulously survived Missa Presulem ephebeatum by Heinrich Isaac,
Read more one of the most significant masters of the Franco-Flemish polyphonic style. Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz’s Presulem ephebeatum, whose thematic material inspired Isaac, attests to his mass being connected with Bohemia and Prague. The album contains a number of other extraordinary pieces, including Josquin Des Prez’s celebrated Stabat Mater, with the added sixth voice, which has been uniquely preserved in this form in Bohemia. Cappella Mariana, made up of stellar early music singers (Hana Blažíková, Barbora Kabátková, etc.), have performed Renaissance polyphony to great acclaim at Europe’s most prestigious concert venues and festivals. Vocal polyphony of Renaissance Prague in the perfect harmony of the Cappella Mariana voices.

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REVIEW:

There is an ancient depiction of Bohemia as a rose, with Prague at its center, which presumably is the source of the disc’s title (and stylized cover art), although, from a marketing standpoint, the exclusive Latin inscription on the CD’s front cover is more likely to result in bewilderment for prospective listeners than the ready offer of a credit card number. What exactly is this recording anyway? A line of very small type on the back cover offers a clue: “Music in Renaissance Prague”. Okay, now we’re (sort of) getting somewhere, and yet, with no other information, the list of mostly unfamiliar composer names on the program–Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz; Lupus Hellinck; Joannes Sixtus Pragensis; Pierre de Bonhomme; Kryštof Harant; Johannes Tourout; Jacobus Regnart–does little to incite more than curiosity. But wait: there’s a Mass by Heinrich Isaac, a motet by Jacob Obrecht, a Stabat Mater by Josquin, all claimed to be “world-premiere” recordings (as are many of those other pieces). What gives?

I could go on, but the point is, even for someone who knows and cares more than a little about “Renaissance music”, this program and its purpose remains something of a mystery, most importantly: what do these composers and works have to do with Prague, and why have we never heard of them before? Nothing on the outside packaging gives us a clue. So, a look at the liner notes should resolve our questions, right? Wrong. There is plenty of information, but the translations (the English ones in my case) are somewhat awkward and sketchy regarding the music’s origins and selection for the recording.

It turns out that “Music in Renaissance Prague” refers to polyphonic music found in manuscripts housed in that city, which was then (and remains) a significant cultural center that attracted musicians from all over Europe. One of the manuscripts was only relatively recently rediscovered, and contains works not necessarily found elsewhere, thus the world-premiere designation for pieces such as the Isaac Mass and Josquin Stabat Mater (in a unique version with an added sixth voice). The recording begins with the very early, and apparently once very well-known piece by Petrus–Presulem ephebeatum, trabeatum, radiatum venustemus sedulo (the first letters spelling the composer’s name)–from which Isaac garnered the cantus firmus for his Mass.

The best part about all of this is, I can assure you that if you do care about Renaissance vocal music, especially in the manner of the Franco-Flemish masters of the mid-15th/mid-16th centuries such as Josquin–and of a comparable caliber–you will enjoy every minute of this excellently programmed and exceptionally well-sung recording. In fact, while the music is uniformly first rate, you may be even more impressed by the performances by the Czech ensemble Cappella Mariana, six singers (two sopranos, alto, tenor, baritone, bass) whose artful interpretations, expert ensemble execution, and vibrant, perfectly tuned sound give well-deserved life to whatever they sing, whether or not we’ve heard of the composer or work in question.

In fact, while the Isaac and Josquin pieces are certainly worthy of a place in the recording catalog, highlights for me also include Hellinck’s In te, Domine, speravi and Regnart’s glorious seven-part tribute to his teacher Jacobus Vaet, Defunctum charites Vaetem (sound clips). What we learn from listening to this hour-long program is that, even if those illustrious Franco-Flemish composers never physically appeared in the Czech capital, their music did, and it had a notable influence on the composers who later worked there, especially in the time of Rudolf II (he became King of Bohemia in 1575 and moved the court to Prague in 1583). You may also, like me, make the happy discovery of this very special vocal ensemble, Cappella Mariana and its artistic director Vojt?ch Semerád, whose careful research and dedication to bringing this music to our attention is much appreciated. If only the packaging had made a more effective and clear presentation of the program’s content–but then, that’s why we have reviews…

– ClassicsToday (David Vernier) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Presulem ephebeatum by Petrus Wilhelmi
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Pomerania (Poland/Ge 
2.
Missa Presulem ephebeatum by Heinrich Isaac
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: The Netherlands 
3.
Recordare, Virgo Mater by Johannes Tourout
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Belgium 
4.
Largire nunc mitissime by Jacob Obrecht
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: The Netherlands 
5.
Stabat Mater by Josquin Des Préz
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: France 
6.
In te, Domine, speravi by Lupus Hellinck
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Belgium 
7.
Defunctum charites Vaetem by Jacob Regnart
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Bohemia 
8.
Praecinite Domino by Pierre Bonhomme
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Belgium 
9.
Qui confidunt in Domino by Krystof Harant
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1598; Jerusalem, Israel 
10.
Te Deum by Joannes Sixtus Pragensis
Conductor:  Vojtech Semerád
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Mariana
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Bohemia 

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