Superb Revival of Zelenka's Homage to the Czech Crown

11-12 2001 Ostatní English
obálka čísla

    There is a batch of outstanding recent releases from Czech artists on the Supraphon label to report.
    The most significant is the revival of Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka's celebration of the coronation of Emperor Charles VI and his wife Elisabeth Christine in 1723, entitled, in Latin, "Under the olive tree of peace and the palm tree of virtue the Crown of Bohemia splendidly shines before the whole world." Zelenka was commissioned to write the work by the Jesuits, both because he was a native Czech, born in the village of Lounovice pod Blanikem in Bohemia in 1689, and because he had been educated by the Jesuits.
    From 1710 until his death in 1745, Zelenka was employed at the court of Dresden. The time he spent in Prague in 1723 preparing for the performance of the piece was the only extended period he spent in his native Bohemia after 1710.
    However, the work was not performed again during Zelenka's lifetime. It has now been reconstructed from Zelenka's score, without the text, and several extant versions of the text. The majestic piece, also entitled the Melodrama of St. Wenceslas, is an allegorical drama that emphasizes the rights of the Habsburgs to the Czech crown. However, it is far from being a dull didactic work. Zelenka, well acquainted with trends in Italian music, uses a wide variety of aria forms. Some arias are melodically highly developed with rich coloratura embellishments, some are declamatory, while others are dance-like showing the influence of the gallant-style.
    In addition to the eight soloists, 142 persons, including dancers, were involved in the original performance, conducted at the coronation by Zelenka. For the revival, Marek Stryncl, the director of the prestigious Czech authentic instruments ensemble Musica Florea, brought together top-rank soloists from Hungary, Germany, Poland, and Austria (appropriately enough for a work praising the Hapsburg dynasty), as well as the French-based historic winds ensemble Ensemble Philidor, the internationally praised Czech boys choir Boni Pueri, and Slovak historic instruments ensemble Musica aeterna.
    The project was unprecedented in the Czech Republic in its scope. It was also one of the first Czech attempts at authentic reconstruction and performance on historical instruments. Those not lucky enough to have attended one of the few concerts of the reconstructed piece in Prague can now at least hear on CD a recording of one of the concerts at Prague Castle and experience some of the vibrancy exuded by the performers.
    Zelenka's piece is a complete rediscovery of a lost work. Another Supraphon new release that can be warmly recommended promotes little known Czech composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859-1951). The recording features three of Foerster's song cycles beautifully performed by leading opera singer Ivan Kusnjer to the accompaniment of pianist Marian Lapsanksy. The cycles feature love poems by Alexander Pushkin (in Czech translation) and Czech poet Josef Merhaut. The texts of the mostly somewhat melancholic poems are reproduced in the accompanying booklet, together with praiseworthy English translations (and also in French and German). For intermediate students of Czech listening to these songs is a most pleasurable way of improving their language skills.
    The third excellent recent release features internationally renowned young Czech clarinettist Ludmila Peterkova, performing works by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Rossini, and Max Bruch. The two pieces by Mendelsson are especially noteworthy for the guest appearance of French Nicolas Baldeyrou playing the basset horn, an instrument that has also disappeared.

Ian Finlay

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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