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Wenceslas II  (1271-1305)
Schola Benedicta & Jiří Hodina


   F1 0160   [8595017416026]   released 3/2008   media partnership  

play all Václav II - Schola Benedicta 56:20
Hinc ac inde gyra 1:51
Baculi sollempnia 0:57
Hospodine, pomiluj ny 0:48
Domine, in virtute tua 1:34
Sol sub nube latuit 2:33
Ordo, cui cor do 1:01
Lectio de fundacione nove ecclesie in Aula Regia 1:34
Rorate, caeli, desuper 2:44
Inmense conditor 3:10
Prope est Dominus 3:11
Nove geniture 2:09
Christo servite, fratres 1:31
Lectio de fundacione Aula Regia nominata 1:55
Si Deus est animus 2:33
O pietatis Deus 2:50
Congaudeant catholici 1:47
Heu me! O dolor, o plus quam dolor 1:44
De lamentatione Jeremiae prophetae 4:00
Pange melos lacrimosum 3:08
Lectio de fletu in Aula Regia 3:33
Ach, homo fragilis 4:21
Spiritus et alme 3:53
Salve, nobilis virga Yesse 0:55
Salve, Regina 2:28

Hana Blažíková, Ivana Brouková, Ludmila Hošková, Klára Jelínková, Renata Pušová, Barbora Sojková, Pavla Štěpničková, Tereza Wollnerová

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The compositions in this programme have been selected from one of the most important endowments of King Wenceslas II, the foundation of the Cistercian abbey at Zbraslav, near Prague, called the Aula Regia. By the recitation of the intercalated verse of the fourteenth-century Chronicon Aulae Regiae 1 and music we can obtain a better picture of important moments in the life of Wenceslas II.
     We begin symbolically with the coronation, the joyous return from exile of a Přemyslid king to the throne of Bohemia. The coronation was celebrated in Prague Cathedral, led by Archbishop Gerhard of Mayence (under whose jurisdiction the bishopric of Prague was), on Whit Sunday, 2 June 1297. Figuratively the words of the conductus ‘Baculi sollempnia’ 2 are about the Holy Father’s new-born Son and also the restored sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia. At the time it was composed (probably the early eleventh century), the hymn ‘Hospodine, pomiluj ny’ (Lord, have mercy upon us), a free translation of a shortened litany for All Saints’ Day, was heard on various ceremonial occasions. It served as a kind of national anthem in Bohemia throughout the Middle Ages, and Charles IV made it part of the coronation order of service in the fourteenth century. The antiphon ‘Domine in virtute tua’ has the title ‘In receptione regis’ in its heading, so it is fair to assume that it was always performed in St Vitus’s Cathedral in the presence of the king at least as far back as the late thirteenth century. ‘Man’s body could not be betrothed more gloriously. Rejoice, rejoice, new spouse!’, bids the conductus ‘Sol sub nube latuit’. The ‘betrothal of the king with the Bohemian Lands’ was conceived of as a special celebration abundant in splendour, glistening with gold and precious stones.
     The day after the coronation, the foundation stone of the church at Zbraslav was ceremonially laid by the Archbishop of Magdeburg. This was followed by the ‘Rorate caeli desuper’ Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated in the foundations of the building.
     The continuously creative work of the Third Person of the Trinity is referred to in the trope ‘Kyrie Inmense conditor’, as is evident from the records of the Cathedral of Saint Vitus, but it comes from the north French tradition. The birth so longed for takes place in the conductus ‘Nove geniture’. The abbey church at Zbraslav – ‘the stone, which emerges, an excelling precious blossom’ – provides the calm of a pious contemplation, becomes the spiritual and intellectual centre of the kingdom, and, not least, the final resting place of Wenceslas II. The hall-like choir of the church provided the Latin name of the abbey, Aula Regia, that is, the royal hall. Following the Cistercian model the monastery was one of the great works of architecture in Bohemia of the age. 
     The ceremonial induction of the monks into the new monastery took place in April 1292. In January of the same year, a daughter, Elizabeth, was born to Wenceslas II. By marrying John of Luxembourg, she would eventually provide the conditions for John’s dynasty ascending to the throne of Bohemia. Zbraslav abbey became a location that Wenceslas particularly loved. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the French king, Saint Louis IX, who founded the Cistercian abbey of Royaumont near Paris, also had a special love for the Cistercians. The antiphon ‘O pietatis Deus’ and the motet ‘Congaudeant catholici’ are joyous songs of praise confirming this time and place with words on the Saviour’s grace, the glory of the apostles and the victory of the martyrs.
     ‘What pain, more than pain!’ A long, painful death accompanied the last months of the king’s life. Lamentations of the faithful were expressed in the laments of the prophet Jeremiah. The text and moving music of the conductus ‘Pange melos lacrimosum’ is a sad elegy marking the loss of a ruler. The powerful threnody was composed by Peter of Zittau, author of the Chronicon Aulae Regiae and second abbot of Zbraslav, in memory of the beloved king. The ‘Lectio de fletu in Aula Regia’ is a free rendering of his verse. ‘Let the whole age mourn this sad mortal end. Peerless, no other such noble and great prince, or true friend of the clergy, champion of peace or reverer of the life of virtue, has ever existed.’ Wenceslas II died at five o’clock in the morning, 21 June 1305.
     Throughout the fourteenth century Zbraslav was the principal monastery in the Bohemian Lands, and an important place of Marian pilgrimage. Apart from anything, Wenceslas was bequeathing this work to the ever-merciful Queen of Heaven. The troped ‘Gloria Spiritus et alme’, the antiphon ‘Salve nobilis virga Yesse’, and the concluding salutation ‘Salve Regina’ are also in this spirit.
     The first large set of liturgical books in the Bohemian Lands dates from the mid-thirteenth century. It comes from the scriptorium of the St Vitus Chapter of Prague, from the circle of the donation of Dean Vitus (d. 1271). In the late thirteenth century there was already a fully developed tradition of choral song enhanced with a whole series of melodies and original words in Czech. In the period of the Luxembourgs’ accession to the throne of Bohemia the form of the monophonic repertoire in the Prague diocese was not markedly different from the central European late choral tradition with the addition of a secondary repertoire of tropes, sequences, rhymed officia and liturgical polyphony.
     In the course of the fourteenth century liturgical monophony also found support, moral and financial, in the Church and amongst the rulers. With the elevation of Prague to an archbishopric in 1344 and the founding of Prague University in 1348 the endeavours of the first archbishop of Prague, Arnošt z Pardubic, and those of Emperor Charles IV to set right the backwardness of the Bohemian Lands and raise Prague to the level of other European cities were conjoined.

Jiří Hodina

1) These are passages in Latin hexameters, metered verse in six feet, popular in Latin and Greek epic verse. A special form of this, used in the Chronicon Aulae Regiae, is Leonine verse, a kind of internal rhyme, where the word before the caesura rhymes with the word at the end of the line of verse.

2) Although the extant thirteenth-century music manuscripts of the Prague Chapter Library lack polyphonic compositions, that does not mean that polyphonic song was not performed in Prague as it was in other European countries. Our selection therefore includes compositions of foreign provenance, which in modal rhythm and homorhythmic harmonies tend to correspond to the tradition of polyphonic song in thirteenth-century Bohemia, as reflected, for instance, by Peter of Zittau in the Chronicon Aulae Regiae about 1330: ‘Once [c. 1290] indulged in only by accomplished musicians, polyphonic song is now heard everywhere, at dances and on town squares, sung in semitones and fifths by laymen and people of loose morals.’

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