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Czech Organ Concertos of the 18th Century
Jaroslav Tůma & Hipocondria Ensemble


F10191   [8595017419126]   released 12/2010  

play all Organ Concertos - Jaroslav Tůma, Hipocondria Ensemble 59:44
Preludium C major 2:37
Concerto VI in F - Allegro moderato 6:32
Concerto VI in F - Larghetto 2:25
Concerto VI in F - Allegro 2:18
Fughetta c minor 1:12
Fuga C major 2:58
Concerto in E flat - Allegro moderato 6:00
Concerto in E flat - Adagio 4:57
Concerto in E flat - Allegro di giusto 4:48
Fuga a minor 2:50
Fuga - Pastorella C major 2:32
Fuga f minor 3:27
Concerto in F - Allegro moderato 5:36
Concerto in F - Adagio 8:02
Concerto in F - Finale.Allegro 3:22

Preludium C major (regal)
JAN VÁCLAV STAMIC (1717 – 1757)
Organ Concerto Nr. VI, F major
Fughetta C minor (chamber organ)
Fuga C major (chamber organ)
Organ Concerto E flat major
Fugue A minor (chamber organ)
Fugue - Pastorella C major (regal)
Fugue F minor (chamber organ)
JAN KŘTITEL VAŇHAL (1739 – 1813)
Organ Concerto F major

Jaroslav Tůma - chamber organ, regal
Hipocondria Ensemble
Jan Hádek, Petra Ščevková – violin, Zuzana Peřinová – viola, Ondřej Michal – cello, Michal Novák – double-bass, Filip Dvořák – harpsichord, Miroslav Rovenský, Petr Kubík – natur horn

    The CD you hold in your hands has been recorded in the Church of St Giles in the village of Bezděz (northern part of the Czech Republic). Nowadays this Romanesque church is the oldest extant one in the entire region of Liberec, still in use. It was built at the end of the 12th century and it is nearly one hundred years older than the well-known royal Castle Bezděz. The church situated under that castle was rebuilt and furnished in the 18th century in the baroque style. The extant precious baroque organ, which was built by the organ builder J. G. Tamiti from Zittau (Germany) in 1760, gives the glimpse of the developed music culture in that region, in the 18th century.
     Although the works recorded on this CD were played mostly in manors and castle chapels of that time, they sound radiant and convincing in the fine acoustics of the Bezděz church.
     Harmonious music making is praised in the Holy Scripture, in the Book of Ecclesiasticus (32:5-6), calling it “an amber seal on a precious stone” and “an emerald seal in a golden setting”. We will be very pleased, if you feel the same joy and inner beauty when listening to this CD.
     Fr Jan Nepomuk Jiřiště, Parish Priest

It is worth of noticing that the second half of the 18th century in Bohemia is regarded as a period of decline in the output of original organ compositions. And yet, paradoxically, a fresh flower – a plethora of organ concertos – came into full bloom during this time. To those, who were already prolific in this field abroad, certainly belongs George Frideric Handel. Bohemian composers happen to tackle this genre later, at the time when the piano is taking the role of the leading keyboard instrument.
     Most of the concerts for solo keyboard instrument composed in the 18th century can be successfully performed on the organ, but also on harpsichord, or pianoforte. Whenever the organ is mentioned, one imagines a larger instrument with pedals and several manuals. In reality, the majority of these concertos for organ and orchestra might be successfully realized on a smaller instrument, such as the positive organ with a few stops. The solo part does not employ polyphony, or complicated textures. It rather concentrates on the nimble excellence of the leading voice. The harmonic support is provided by the left hand and the instrumental component often plays, generally speaking, single tones, occasionally chords and the ritornellos. It is unnecessary to have a large complement of accompanying instruments. One player to a part suffices. In this recording we have opted for the latter.
     When listening to the musical language of Kopřiva, Vaňhal or Stamic, that uses prevalently major keys in pieces imbued with joy and contentment, is devoid of harshness and conflict, it might cross our mind that Classicism in Bohemia must have been a beautiful period, without problems. What kind of life did the people live then and what was the role that music played? We know from the history that it was not a period without hardships, and yet, the late 18th century in Bohemia brought about an immense boon to the general culture, music included.
     Music-making was wide spread, both in towns and the most remote villages. Talented musicians employed by the aristocracy were at work in castles and stately manors. These and predominantly catholic churches became then centres of music. Other gifted composers and instrumentalists journeyed abroad in search of opportunities. While Karel Blažej Kopřiva remained in his native town of Cítoliby, Jan Křtitel Vaňhal went to Vienna and Jan Václav Stamic settled in Mannheim.
     The famous phrase “my friends in Prague understand me” ascribed to W.A. Mozart, attests to the level of excellence in classical music of Bohemia, where fine music was often brilliantly performed in concerts and opera.
     On the other hand, when reading writings by the Bohemian cantor Jakub Jan Ryba, we gain a different insight. Ryba writes: “I was travelling in order to survey the music-making in different places. I have to admit that I heard very bad music in lot of organ lofts and had many reasons to laugh, having experienced crazy, almost epileptic gestures, used by a number of country cantors and musicians. I was really angry when I saw and heard how a pretentious cantor shamefully changes masterpieces, by shortening them insolently or mutilates them by adding poor embellishments. I had an impression similar to that of seeing a precious attire, patched with shreds. In addition, there was raucous shouting, ear splitting wailing of the singers and messy playing of the violinists.” We also know from Ryba that teaching was considered a very important profession. The school duties were most of the time connected with church functions, namely with playing the organ and making music in the local choir loft. “A cantor, who is skilful, has a musical sense and is supported by his superiors, can do a lot in favour of music.”
     One of the advantages of our time is that we can fully enjoy music of the distant past, without having to invent a time machine. We can derive pleasure from compositions without knowing specifically, what genre they represent: popular music, music for relaxation and entertainment, or church music.
     I will quote again Ryba, who in addition to being a cantor and a composer was also a writer: “The goal of music is to revive the pious mind of the gathered Christians and to provide them with more energy. Its scope is also to fulfil the hearts of the assembled with the right piousness, to strengthen it and to keep it on their minds.” He continues: “A composer must imitate a speaker in all aspects, if he wants to affect the soul. If the speaker wants to influence deeply the mind, he has to know very well in advance his listeners. He divides then the audience into diverse groups. He is obliged to speak in one way to the children, in a different way to the uneducated, diversely to people with a lower level of education and yet in another way to the learned. And the speaker should produce the same effect in all very different groups of listeners: he should fully convince his audience of the truth and incline their souls to the truth so that they would feel the moral truth, think about it and follow it. From this point of view the speaker should not present his statements and rules drily, but he ought to embellish them in all possible manners and present them enticingly. However, his lecture will impress with the greatest and the most powerful message, when he feels with all his heart, what he says. On this fact is based the attractiveness and the mysterious affection of the souls that has the astonishing power, to move the whole gathering in a single moment to the noblest acts. What comes from the heart goes to the heart!” And he continues further: “What is devoid of charm to the layman has to be adorned with diverse embellishments and with a lovely timbre. The composer must soften the aridity with tender dew of roses, moderate the eagerness with a cooling shadow, warm the coldness with a mild heat and reconcile, with touching tenderness worthy of the credulity of a child, the dismal mood we often find in the church compositions.”
     Even though the music of the 18th century is perceived as uncomplicated, pleasantly flowing and nowadays often used as background music, its composers thought otherwise of its message. It had a higher meaning with a profound educational significance. On the other hand, it was in a certain sense necessary to beautify it, in order to allow it to ingratiate itself to the listener.
     The concerto form traditionally required the soloist to improvise embellishments, add figurations, but above all, create cadenzas “on the spot”. Today we often ask, what sort of improvisation is suitable? Not an easy question to answer! We live here and now and conceivably could do, “whatever”. Perhaps the best clue remains in the nature of the improvisation itself, in its principle of “unreadiness”. The embellishments which cross the player’s mind at the moment of the performance might make the most elegant impression. The embellishments prepared in advance can be rather stilted. Also cadenzas performed spontaneously sound more natural than those memorized.
     Between the three concertos on this CD are inserted compositions for solo organ by Karel Blažej Kopřiva. (Preludes and fugues were the most frequently utilized organ forms of the time, employed in the everyday’s liturgical practice.)
     Using an instrument called the regal, elicits a certain curiosity. Its bleating sound, likened by Italian historian in the 17th century to a quacking of the duck, is produced by reeds without resonators. It was commonly used in Bohemia and the Czech Museum of Music displays a specimen. Its name is frequently given to a reed organ stop.
     Both the regal and the positive organ used in this recording were built by Vladimír Šlajch, organ builder from Borovany (Czech Republic). The positive organ has four stops: Koppel 8´, Flöte 4´, Prinzipal 2´ and Mixture 2 ranks. The harpsichord was built by František Vyhnálek of Hovorčovice (near Prague). It has a double choir of strings and a lute stop and was modelled after an anonymous harpsichord from the first half of the 18th century, preserved in J.S.Bach’s museum in his native house in Eisenach (Germany).
     This CD was recorded in the Church of St Giles in the village of Bezděz (northern part of the Czech Republic). This charming edifice with its pleasant acoustics and hospitable interior provided inspiring conditions for the performers. The positive organ, the harpsichord and the regal were kindly lent by Fr Stanislav Přibyl.

Jaroslav Tůma

Further recordings by Jaroslav Tůma:

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