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Adam Václav Michna (c. 1600-1676)


F10104   [8595017410420]   released 4/2001

play all Officium vespertinum - Capella Regia 67:51
Intonatio 1:05
Deus in adjutorium 0:46
Sonata a 4 3:38
Rex pacificus 0:23
Dixit Dominus 2:39
Rex pacificus 0:22
Confitebor 3:18
Beatus vir 3:19
Laudate pueri Dominum 3:46
Laudate Dominum 1:30
Te lucis ante terminum 4:14
Cum ortus fuerit 0:30
Magnificat 3:13
Canzon tertii toni 3:33
In exitu Israel 5:46
Sonata con duobus violinis 4:37
Petrus et Joannes 0:21
Falso Burdon Primo tono 2:03
Falso Burdon Sexto tono 2:36
Domine probasti 7:28
Tu es pastor ovium 0:23
Magnificat a 12 et a 16 10:35
Ultimo Verso loco antifonae 1:02

CAPELLA REGIA, directed by Robert Hugo
Anna Hlavenková, Gabriela Eibenová, Marta Lopourová - soprano; Jan Mikušek, Petra Noskaiová - alto; Jaroslav Březina, Vladimír Richter - tenor; Aleš Procházka, Miroslav Hromádka - bass;
Daniel Deuter, Jiřina Doubravská - violin; Mikoláš Čech - viola; Hana Fleková - viola da gamba; Ondřej Štajnochr - violone; Stanislav Penk, Břetislav Kotrba, Bohuslav Rattay - trombones; Thomas Ihlenfeldt - theorbo, trombone; Martina Šindlerová - organ positive; Robert Hugo - organ positive, church organ

Adam Václav Michna (from Otradovice) was born c. 1600 in Jindřichův Hradec (Neuhaus), south Bohemia, where he also received a solid general education from the Jesuits. It was probably his father Michal Michna, the senior town trumpeter, who introduced him to music. After 1618, however, all trace of him in Jindrichuv Hradec vanishes for a while; possibly he left Bohemia to continue his education abroad. From 1633 till his death in 1676 he was employed as the organist in the Jindřichův Hradec provost church. As a wealthy burgher, being occupied with the management of his estate may have prevented him from accepting work in another, more important music centre. Though this cannot be proved, he evidently had opportunity for employment elsewhere as well as good contacts. The dedications of his extant collections are made to leading centres in Bohemia - Praha, České Budějovice (Budweis), Olomouc (Olmutz) - and to important persons such as the Bohemian prelate Ernst Adalbert Harrach (who was Archbishop of Prague and later cardinal), Mikuláš Reiter z Hornberka (Niklaus Reiter von Hornberg), administrator of the bishopric of Olomouc, and also to the town councils of these cities. On the other hand, with his material needs taken care of, he was able to have at least the most important of his compositions published. About 230 of his pieces from three Czech and two Latin collections are known today. Two of the compositions are preserved in copies.
     The collection of psalms Officium vespertinum (1648) was long thought lost. Thanks to the Michna expert Jiri Sehnal, it was recently discovered in Klosterneuburg, Austria. It was dedicated to the Town Council of Budweis, on 1 October 1648, that is to say, the very month and year the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. In view of the fact that Budweis was hard hit by the Thirty Year's War and that Michna emphasizes the valour of its population several times in the Preface, it is certain that the approaching conclusion of the war was an important impulse for him to complete the collection.
     To recreate the atmosphere of the Vespers of those times, we have selected two sets of psalms for this recording. To some of them we have attached the appropriate antiphons (during the liturgy the antiphons are sung before and after the psalm). To the whole, we then added several compositions from Michna's day as they had commonly been used during Vespers. In the case of the Gregorian chant we have chosen its "simplified" form from the seventeenth century. Apart from the setting to music of the "David" psalms the Officium vespertinum contains several falsi burdoni, that is, musical formulas which can accompany various texts. They were frequently used during the singing of psalms; a peculiarity of Michna's version is the use of the double-choir arrangement. We can imagine that during Jesuit services all the pupils sang in this way, whereas the five-voice concertato psalm was performed by the best singing colleges. An interesting test of the composer's style is provided by the last composition on our recording, the great Magnificat, a copy of which was originally preserved in Breslau (Wroclaw, in today's Poland). Though Michna's style from the 1640s and 1650s cannot be mistaken for that of any other composer, in the Magnificat one hears far more echoes of the work of Giovanni Gabrieli and the Venetian School than one normally hears elsewhere. It is probably reasonable, then, to consider it Michna's oldest existing composition. It, too, however, had temporarily gone missing during the Second World War and was, thanks to information from the University Library at Wroclaw, later found in the State Library, Berlin. By comparing the individual parts we discover that it was later re-composed; some of the solo passages were left out and some parts were attached to other texts. For this recording we have used the "Wroclaw version", in which the odd verses (as opposed to the even) were probably played on the organ.
     Adam Michna, to be sure, did not have as great an influence on the development of European music as his famous contemporaries had, and his name was soon forgotten. He did, however, create an individual style, utterly distinct from that of any other composer. Indeed, by its originality, Michna's music can leave the listener dumbfounded.
     Though not obvious at first sight, one key to understanding Baroque music is the first half of the nineteenth century. That was the period when modern artists consciously sought to abandon the tradition of Baroque expression and, unbound by rules and conventions, gave free rein to Romantic inspiration. The same Romantic inspiration also led them to a fascination with distant times. This was first manifested in the erection of imitation ruins (or "follies") and the emergence of pseudo-styles of architecture. In the area of music it provided the impetus to Mendelssohn's discovery of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, and aroused interest in other forgotten masters. This laid the foundations for research into what is generally called "early music". A comparison of the rhetorical figures and other means of expression in the verse of Karel Hynek Macha (1810-1836) and Adam Michna z Otradovice (c. 1600-1676), for instance, also makes it clear that artists in the early nineteenth century were - fortunately - unable to abandon completely traditional means of expression and interrupt the continuum of development.
     The early nineteenth century can therefore properly be considered a point from which we are just as remote in time as the people of that century were remote from Adam Michna and his period. With some simplification it is safe to say that till the mid-nineteenth century, musicians developed only the art of interpretation of their music and time. From this point the development of the interpretation of earlier music began with the great Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940) - as a kind of recollection - and the search for documents, records, testimony. It turns out that this initial groping and searching was truly important for the development of interpretation - whether of music of the Middle Ages, the Baroque, or the Romantic period. It is to be regretted that knowledge of the history of central European medieval music, compared to that of England, France, and the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, is still so rudimentary. Though all Czech achievements in this area so far tend to be only first fruits rather than mature works, I have tried as much as possible to complete our picture of the Vespers that Adam Michna performed in Jindrichuv Hradec (Neuhaus).
     Apart from the psalm arrangements from the collection Officium vespertinum (1648), we have chiefly used the kinds of compositions that complete the aural picture of mid-seventeenth century music. We took the antiphons and the hymn from the vesperal of the Editio Ratisbonae (1883), which full adopts the simplified version (called the "Medici") of the Gregorian chant used in the seventeenth century. For the recording we left out the antiphons sung before and after each psalm. We do not know, unfortunately, whether in Michna's day it was the custom to accompany the Gregorian chant with the organ and, if so, how (the earliest instructions we know concerning this practice date from the eighteenth century); consequently, we have not employed this interesting Baroque method here. We arranged the hymn of the first vespers and the concluding Magnificat using the alternatim method. Sung verses alternate here with verses played on the organ (hence the name "versets"), during which churchgoers quietly prayed the corresponding part (verse) of the prayer. The organ versets used here are part of the "Starobrnensky sbornik" [Old Brno Anthology], an anonymous collection of compositions for organ, which dates from c. 1630. We still do not know what the alto voice sounded like in Bohemian Baroque music. It was undoubtedly sung by men. For the time being, however, we are unable to decide whether it was a light tenor, known as the "tenorino" (as in French music) or, alternatively, the contratenor, used by, among others, the English. Judging from period documents I tend to think that it involved a combination (alternation) of "full" voice and falsetto, depending on the range and meaning of the musical phrase. The instrumental sonatas are part of the Kromeriz (Kremsier) archive, as the whole Officium vespertinum once was, before it was lent to Klosterneuburg, Austria, from which it was never returned.
     Similarly to the musicians of the period we too were faced here with the problem of how to tune the organ. The grand organ of the church of St Mary in Kladruby is tuned to the Cammer-Ton (c. 415 Hz), whereas the positive, which is used to play the Generalbass (the figured or unfigured bass parts), and all the other instruments were tuned to the Chor-Ton (c. 466 Hz). The difference was one full tone; to that, we also had to adapt the selection of keys and modes of the individual psalms, antiphons, and organ versets. And, lastly, we wish to pay homage to the grand, inspiring space of the convent church of St Mary in Kladruby, its superb acoustics, and pleasant atmosphere.

Robert Hugo

Further album by Capella Regia & Robert Hugo

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