Notes and Editorial Reviews
Jan Semerádová, cond; Hana Blažiková (sop); Kamila Šev?iková (alt); Tomáš Král (bar); Marián Krej?ík (bar); Collegium Marianum (period instruments)
SUPRAPHON 4002 (59:04
Text and Translation)
Maria, pole vznežené. Ach Bože, kterak jsem zasloužla. Maria, dej dovolení. Rorate cśli, když svatí proroci. Ó duže má rozmilá. K Ježíškovi.
Quæ est ista.
Trio Sonata in D.
O cśli, rorate.
Alma redemptoris mater.
Sonata in G.
Vaticini di pace:
When we think of Prague during the 18th century, the one thing that comes to mind is that it was probably one of the most musical cities in all of Europe. A tremendous number of important composers, such as Richter, Johann Stamitz, and Jan Myslivicek, were all born or worked here; Mozart absolutely loved the city, preferring it to Vienna; and it boasted a stable of fabulous musicians including horn players of incredible virtuosity and pianists such as Jan Dussek. It is therefore not surprising to find a gem in this release a slight backward look in time to the early part of the century along with an equally vibrant musical culture, which featured local composers. There were Bohemian composers during this era, such as Zelenka, who became international names, and his colleagues Vivaldi, Fasch, and Caldara were all visitors to the city and contributed to its musical life. It is a rich, and often overlooked, era that deserves much further exploration. This disc is a grand start, containing a plethora of works for the Advent and Christmas season drawn from the Capuchin Monastery archives.
As the fine booklet notes by Václav Kapsa state, the two native composers, Václav Karel Holan Rovenský (c. 1644–1718) and Antonín Reichenauer (c. 1694–1730), are little-known names, even in lexica. The former was from the small Bohemian town of Rovensko pod Troskami (hence the appendage to his last name), and worked in a number of smaller places in and around Prague as an organist before undertaking a pilgrimage to Rome in 1674. There he was influenced to compose and publish a hymnal,
Capella Regia Musicalis
, which contains some of if not
first popular sacred music in Czech. As a monk he eventually decided upon the acetic life of a hermit, living out his days in solitude at Valdštejn. The seven hymns drawn from this collection are all superbly performed, no mean feat considering that they are a mix of settings. There is a certain modal quality here, one that is emphasized by the use of various recorders and strings, lending it an almost Monteverdian sound at times. Of particular note is the proclamation
, which features a superb duet of alto and baritone. These may be simple and strophic, but the differing textures provided by the Collegium Marianum make each one interesting (as does the Czech, which is a very singable language).
We know almost nothing at all about Reichenauer, who was apparently in the service of Count Morzin at Prague from 1720 until his death a decade later. He did, however, leave a large compositional legacy, including a fair number of instrumental works, both chamber and orchestral, as well as a plethora of church compositions, including one of the first pastoral masses. His style is reminiscent of either Telemann or Vivaldi. The
Cantata ad Montem Sanctum
, consisting of a brief recitative and a lengthy aria, has a nice lyrical feel to it, especially as sung by baritone Tomáš Král, whose light and flexible voice blends nicely with the oboes and violins. The Advent aria “O cśli rorate” is faster and here Hana Blažiková handles the fluid coloratura with grace and ease. The trio sonata is also well done, though musically less interesting.
The remainder of the disc is by composers who were far more prominent. Dresden Kapellmeister Zelenka is, of course, extremely well known, and this little gem of an antiphon was probably written as part of a series of liturgical works based upon the Psalms and meant to be performed, à la Telemann, by a small group of amateurs. Here, soprano Blažiková puts a tremendous amount of expressive feeling, especially in the opening aria, without allowing the tempo to drag. Caldara was the leader of the Viennese Imperial Kapelle and almost as famous as Vivaldi during the period. This little aria, drawn from a Christmas cantata from 1712, is rather different from Caldara’s often progressive style, with its lilting pastoral 12/8 meter and sometimes gnarly dissonances between the soprano and first violin (without continuo). Fasch, too, was resident in Prague at the Morzin court, though for only a year. His quadro sonata is a curiosity, blending the more rounded sound of the traverse flute with a pair of recorders. The final Allegro of this four-movement work is a masterpiece of contrast, with the three treble instruments tumbling over themselves, sounding for all the world like an errant organ stop.
This disc is well performed, even though the music may be considered more topical than striking. All four of the voices are right on pitch, and what is more, the excellent ensemble of the Collegium Marianum blends with them to obtain a uniform and pleasing sound. This, too, is helped by Supraphon’s outstanding engineering, which allows for the depth to emerge and eliminates what must have been significant reverberation in the monastery church. Semerádová’s tempos are spot-on, and I am extremely impressed by her sensitive phrasing and interpretations.
There is a wonderful addition: the traditional carol
, played on the famous Loreto carillon in downtown Prague. It rather sets the mood for the entire disc, one of enjoyment and contemplation of the season, even if it is way out of tune (as carillons often are). This compendium would make a fine addition to anyone’s selection of real Classical (OK, Baroque) Christmas music.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Maria, thou lofty field by Václav Holan Rovensky
Hana Blazikova (Soprano),
Marian Krejcik (Baritone)
Rorate coeli, when holy prophets by Václav Holan Rovensky
Kamila Sevcikova (Alto),
Tomas Kral (Baritone)
Triosonata in D major by Antonin Reichenauer
Alma Redemptoris Mater by Jan Dismas Zelenka
Adeste fideles by Jan Dismas Zelenka
Oh my beloved by Václav Holan Rovensky
To little Jesus, beloved by Václav Holan Rovensky
Written: by 1694; Prague
A darling child by Václav Holan Rovensky
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