A Festival of Music in Prague 13–19 June 2018
The Programme, continued Zelenka’s Missa Omnium Sanctorum
ˇ ˇ String Quartets: Janácek, Smetana, Dvorák
Collegium 1704 | Václav Luks conductor
Church of St James the Greater
Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia
Born in rural Bohemia, Jan Dismas Zelenka spent most of his working life at the catholic court of Dresden. In his day, his music, characterized by vivacity, melodic charm and rich textures, was much admired by J.S. Bach and Telemann. His Missa Omnium Sanctorum (Mass of All Saints) is a late work in which attractive solo numbers are set beside monumental choruses.
The highly personal nature of the Czech string quartet in the late Romantic era and early twentieth century contributes a rich strand to the chamber repertoire. The tradition goes back to Smetana’s highly autobiographical quartet, From My Life, which charts the highs of his career and the tragedy of deafness, and carries through to the passionate, almost operatic involvement found in Janáček’s two string quartets composed when he was deeply in love with a woman nearly forty years his junior. The concert concludes with Dvořák’s greatest quartet, op.106, which includes his most deeplyfelt slow movement and a gloriously joyful finale.
Collegium 1704 was founded by harpsichordist and conductor Václav Luks in 2005. The ensemble is well-known for their performances of the key pieces of Baroque repertoire, and for promoting works of Czech masters such as Jan Dismas Zelenka and Josef Mysliveček. The ensemble has collaborated with the likes of Magdalena Kožená, Vivica Genaux and Bejun Mehta, and has been nominated for The International Opera Awards and The Gramophone Awards. Many churches in Prague are Gothic in architecture but Baroque in decoration, encrustation with altars and elaborate furnishings being standard after the triumph of Catholicism in 1620. St James stands out as the most magnificent of these hybrids, second only to the cathedral in length and surpassed only by St Nicholas Lesser Town (where concerts are no longer permitted) for richness of Baroquery.
The Bennewitz Quartet was established in 1998. It entered the international music scene after winning two major String Quartet competitions, in Ósaka in 2005 and Reggio Emilia in 2008. As a recent resident ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic, the Quartet actively promotes Czech repertoire worldwide. This current season will bring them to Canada, Japan, Israel, the United States and to various European stages. Founded in 1233, the Convent of St Agnes is one of the most intriguing and attractive mediaeval buildings in Prague. Accommodating two Franciscan communities, nuns and friars, there is a complex arrangement of adjacent chapels, one of which, roofless since dissolution in 1792, was converted in the 1980s into a concert hall. Also housed in the complex is one of the finest collections of Gothic painting in the world.
Mozart’s Czech Mates Classical Opera – The Mozartists | Ian Page director Ana Maria Labin soprano Žofín Palace This programme begins and ends with amazingly vital and passionate symphonies by Vaňhal and Koželůh – why aren’t they standard repertoire? – and in between presents dazzling arias by Gluck, Mysliveček, Jiří Benda and Mozart himself. Mozart’s music had some of its most enthusiastic audiences in Prague, and the composer visited the city five times in the last five years of his life. But he didn’t have to travel to Bohemia to meet highly-talented performers and composers from the kingdom: he constantly came across them wherever he went in Europe, even when at home in Salzburg. Prague had lost its royal court to Vienna, so many local musicians were forced to seek employment elsewhere.
‘Many musical memories that will last forever. Stunning performances.’ – MRT festival participant.
Illustration, right: Prague, Charles Bridge, Lesser Town and Castle, lithograph c. 1860. Photographs, left (top to bottom): Classical Opera ©Benjamin Ealovega; Ian Page ©Benjamin Ealovega; Ana Maria Labin. Opposite: Bennewitz Quartet ©Kamil Ghais.
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Ten private concerts of music from the Czech lands in magnificent and appropriate historic buildings.