Jiří Ignác Linek
Pastorela “Arise, arise o shepherds”
Tomáš Norbert Koutník
Pastorela “Rejoice, one and all”
Jakub Jan Ryba
Czech Christmas Mass
Lenka Máčiková Kusendová
Jana Šrejma Kačírková
Vojtěch Jouza studied oboe at the Prague Conservatory in the class of František Xaver Thuri and subsequently at the Academy of Performing Arts in the class of Jiří Mihule. Later he also graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in conducting, which he studied with Tomáš Koutník, František Vajnar, Petr Vronský, Hynek Farkač, Josef Kuchaň, Leoš Svárovský, Charles Olivier-Munroe, Norbert Baxa, Jiří Chvála and Lubomír Mátl. Vojtěch Jouza gained valuable experience early in his youth, for example, as a member of Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester led by Claudio Abbado. While still a student at the Academy, he won a competition to become an English horn soloist of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1989–1991).
When still at the Prague Conservatory, his interest in early music and chamber performance inspired Vojtěch Jouza to found the Prague Baroque Ensemble in 1982, which has been actively performing ever since and where he takes on the roles of oboist, artistic director and occasionally conductor, presenting many interesting projects. In 2007 he conducted his own reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Mark Passion with the Baroque Prague Ensemble and the Prague Chamber Choir as part of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra concert series. In the following years, Vojtěch Jouza featured well- and lesser-known works within the concert series of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra such as Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Easter Oratorio and Magnificat; Missa Dei Patris by Jan Dismas Zelenka and Brockes Passion by Georg Philipp Telemann. In addition to numerous performances in the Czech Republic, the Prague Baroque Ensemble annually tours Japan.
As part of his other artistic activities, Vojtěch Jouza devotes himself to conducting choirs – in 1995 he founded the En Arché chamber choir where he is the choirmaster and conductor. In 2009, he became the choirmaster of the Česká píseň (Czech Song) Choir in Pilsen. In 2014, he was invited to teach at the Convivium International Summer School of Sacred Music as a choirmaster lecturer.
As a conductor, Vojtěch Jouza has collaborated with leading Czech and Slovak orchestras and choirs such as the Czech Philharmonic, PKF – Prague Philharmonia, Slovak State Philharmonic in Košice, Prague Chamber Choir, Kühn Choir of Prague, Martinů Voices, Talich’s Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra of South Bohemia, Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra and Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra in Zlín. Together with the BERG Orchestra, Vojtěch Jouza staged two operas by Bohuslav Martinů, Comedy on the Bridge and The Marriage. As a co-creator and especially conductor he has been involved in the past seasons in successful educational programs of the Czech Philharmonic entitled “Penguins in the Rudolfinum”. In the years 2015–2017 he was Assistant to Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek. In the 2016/2017 season he was involved in preparation of the recording of Tchaikovsky’s compositions for Decca with Semyon Bychkov.
Lukáš Vasilek, principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and musicology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. For eleven seasons from 1998 he was conductor of the Foerster Female Chamber Choir, and between 2005 and 2007 was also second choirmaster of the Prague National Theatre´s opera chorus.
He took up his post at the helm of the PPC in 2007. Apart from preparing and conducting the choir´s own concert productions, he builds up the PPC´s repertoire set for participation in larger-scale cantata, oratorio and opera projects, working with leading international conductors (Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Hrůša, Jordan, Luisi, Mehta or Rattle, among others) and orchestras (including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010 the PFS under Vasilek´s direction has guest appeared regularly at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
Lukáš Vasilek is signed under numerous recordings made by the PPC for various major labels, including Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony Classical and Supraphon. In 2016 the last mentioned of these issued an album of Bohuslav Martinů´s cantatas which was recently singled out for special plaudits by the prestigious British magazines, Gramophone (Editor´s Choice), and BBC Music Magazine (Choral & Song Choice).
In 2010 Lukáš Vasilek formed the Martinů Voices chamber vocal ensemble whose repertoire he has focused primarily on 20th- and 21st-century choral music. He is likewise occasionally active as an orchestra conductor.
Jaroslav Březina studied at the Prague Conservatory under the tutelage of Zdeněk Jankovský and after graduating further honed his technique with Václav Zítek. His concert activity is extensive, primarily as regards projects pertaining to the Baroque and Classical repertoire. He has appeared on concert stages in Japan, Austria, Norway, Italy, Germany, France and Spain. He has collaborated with a number of conductors, including Jiří Bělohlávek, Sir Charles Mackerras, Oliver Dohnányi, Gerd Albrecht and Tomáš Netopil. Since 1993 he has been a soloist of Prague’s National Theatre Opera, where he has created a host of roles from both the Czech and world repertoire. He featured on CD recordings of Jakub Jan Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass (Deutsche Grammophon), Zelenka’s coronation opera Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis, which won a Cannes Classical Award for the year 2002. In 2016, he performed as Schoolmaster in Jan Latham-Koenig and Robert Carsen’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen in Teatro Reggio in Torino and as Števa Buryja in a concert performance of Jenůfa in Prague and London with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic. He also works with Czech Television. He was awarded the Thálie Award 2015.
After studying voice at the Conservatory in Pardubice, Jiří Hájek first attended the University of Music in Bratislava (Peter Mikuláš) and then the Academy of Music in Prague (René Tuček). In 2003 he won 1st prize in the category of song and 2nd prize in the category of opera at the International Antonín Dvořák Vocal Competition in Karlovy Vary. Since 2004 he has been a soloist of the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theatre in Plzeň. Since 2003 he had been a permanent guest of State Opera Prague. In 2010/2011 season he became a member of the National Theatre Opera in Prague, appearing in the roles of Masetto, Don Giovanni, Papageno, Count Almaviva, Guglielmo, the Innkeeper, God the Son, the Dealer in Oils (Martinů: The Miracles of Mary), Morales, Belcore (Donizetti: Lʼelisir dʼamore), Paul (Glass: Les enfants terribles), Adolf (Dvořák: The Jacobin), Lord Mountjoy (Britten: Gloriana), Orfeo (Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice), Father (Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel) and Dandini (Rossini: La Cenerentola). He also performs at the National Theatre Brno. At concerts and opera performances he has sung under Jiří Bělohlávek, Tomáš Netopil, Ondrej Lenárd, Oliver Dohnányi and other renowned conductors.
Martinů Voices chamber choir was founded in 2010. While its main artistic focus has been on top-quality interpretation of chamber choral works encompassing the time span from the 19th–21st centuries, the choirʼs repertoire also includes compositions from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods. The ensemble is made up of professional singers working under the direction of conductor Lukáš Vasilek.
The choir appear regularly at the Czech Republicʼs major music festivals. Apart from its own concert programmes, the choir has likewise been involved in a number of joint projects. In 2014 it joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, in a production of Bohuslav Martinůʼs opera What Men Live By. This particular collaboration earned them a nomination for the prestigious International Opera Award (2015). Another major achievement for the choir was their concert appearance alongside the prominent British ensemble, the Tallis Scholars, at the Dvořák Prague Festival in 2016.
The art of the choir has been documented by several CD albums. In 2016 the choir made a recording of Jakub Jan Rybaʼs cantata Stabat Mater (Nibiru Publishers) which earned it the “Diapason dʼOr choice” (April 2017).
Jana Šrejma Kačírková graduated from the Prague Conservatory in 2006. During her studies she won a number of awards at the International Antonín Dvořák Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary. In 2006 she became a guest of the National Moravia-Silesian Theater in Ostrava and since 2010 she has been a permanent member of the opera ensemble. Since 2016 she has become a permanent member of the National Theatre Brno. She is a permanent guest of the South Bohemian Theater in České Budějovice. She made her guest appearance in František Xaver Šalda Theatre in Liberec, Josef Kajetán Tyl Theatre in Pilsen and the National Theater in Prague. In 2015 she made her debut at the stage of the Slovak National Theatre and at the Revolving theatre in Český Krumlov.
Jana Šrejma Kačírková has made her appearance at prestigious international festivals. She has been singing under the baton of many famous conductors such as Tomáš Brauner, Oliver Dohnanyi, Jakub Klecker, Tomáš Netopil, Mario De Rose, Alfonso Scarano and many others.
She has been twice awarded by the Thálie award – in 2012 and in 2013. She has won three South Bohemian Thálie awards as well as the honorary “Libuška” prize at the Opera 2013 Festival. In 2013 she was appreciated by Annual award of the Opera Plus magazine.
Jakub Jan Ryba (1765–1815) was born in Přeštice. He developed his love and talent for music whilst studying at the Piarist gymnasium in Prague. He was well read; familiar with ancient philosophy as much as with the Enlightenment ideology and classical poetry. After short stints in Nepomuk and Mníšek pod Brdy, he obtained a permanent position at the school in Rožmitál pod Třemšínem.
Ryba’s best-known work, the Czech Christmas Mass, was composed in 1796. As the choirmaster of the Rožmitál church, by that time Ryba had written several dozen masses and Christmas compositions. The importance of Ryba’s most recent compositional effort was that he completely replaced the Latin (or Latin with Czech interpolations) of the mass with Czech.
According to the Gospel it was the shepherds to whom the angel announced the birth of Jesus. For that reason, Ryba addresses the shepherds and their master at the very opening of the work, which is made up of notes that can be produced on a shepherd’s horn. The beginning of the vocal part is within the tonal range of another folk instrument, the bagpipes, and the frequent use of pedal notes creates the illusion of a bagpiper playing. The manuscript of Ryba’s work is lost. Only a copy of the vocal and instrumental parts has been preserved, which was for a long time considered the composer’s original. However, only the text of the title page is in Ryba’s hand. It contains a list of vocal and instrumental parts, which, fortunately, correspond fully to those in the copy. More troubled than the fate of the manuscript of Ryba’s most famous work was the end of the composer’s life. Wearied by circumstances and by his endeavours to fulfil the vocation of teacher, an educator of children and adults alike, perhaps even brought down by illness, he ended his life by suicide on 8 April 1815.
Tomáš Norbert Koutník’s father was a weaver in the town of Choceň in East Bohemia. He sent his son to study at the Piarist grammar school in Litomyšl and later in Kroměříž. After completing his studies Koutník taught in Chroustovice and Kostelec nad Orlicí, and in 1729 he became a teacher, choirmaster and senior leader of the literary brotherhood in Choceň. Most of his compositions are lost; we know of only 50 of them, preserved mostly in copies discovered in East Bohemian churches. Since he received his musical education from a religious order, his musical style is based on Baroque rules. In Kroměříž he also acquainted himself with elements of Italian opera and exotically sounding Moravian Wallachian music. He utilized it primarily in pastorals, including his most famous Hej, hej, jeden i druhej (Hey, Hey, Both of You).
Jiří Ignác Linek was born at Bakov nad Jizerou in the family of a city councilor, scribe and teacher. He studied for only one year at the Piarist grammar school in Kosmonosy; later he continued to study composition in Prague under the composer and organist Josef Seger. In 1747 he was appointed a teacher in Bakov, where besides teaching he was also in charge of the choir in St. Bartholomew’s Church and functioned as a senior leader of a literary brotherhood. He fathered five children and lived in relative poverty, which made him work as a local scribe in addition to farming. Linek was a prolific composer of mostly sacred music, but he also tried his hand at instrumental works. The popularity of his compositions is evidenced by the fact that their scores were found in copies from that period in many Czech church choirs. Linek also composed at least thirty pastorals, mostly with Christmas themes, including Vzhůru, vzhůru, pastouškové (Rise up, Shepherds).
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