Czech Chamber Music Society • Markéta Cukrová

Markéta Cukrová’s concert is among those carried over from last season. This sought-after mezzo-soprano is praised for her exceptional versatility and the sensitivity with which she approaches music ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. She will be joined by harpist Kateřina Ghanudi and theorbo player and guitarist Jan Krejča.

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Francesco del Nicolino
Tu dormi, anima mia

Giulio Caccini
Se ridete gioiose

Claudio Monteverdi
Dolci miei sospiri

Bellerofonte Castaldi
Tasteggio soave pro theorbu sólo

Settimia Caccini
Due luci ridenti

Francesca Caccini
Lasciatemi qui solo

Bellerofonte Castaldi
Capriccio detto Bischizzoso for harp and theorbo

Claudio Monteverdi
Ecco di dolci raggi
Io che armato sin hor

Amor crudo, fior tiranno

Barbara Strozzi
Udite, udite!

Ascanio Mayone
Ricercar sopra il canto di Costantio Festa for harp solo

Giulio Caccini
Amarilli mia bella

Tarquinio Merula
Canzonetta spirituale sopra la Nanna


Markéta Cukrová mezzo-soprano
Kateřina Ghannudi harp
Jan Krejča theorbo

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Markéta Cukrová

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Instead of the initially planned programme with contemporary music, the soloist will be presenting herself in a completely different light. The instrumentation itself reveals that we are going back several centuries. Italy of the first half of the 17th century was an especially noted centre for vocal music. The programme of the evening consists mainly of music by G. Caccini and C. Monteverdi that perhaps has never before been heard in this hall.


Markéta Cukrová  mezzo-soprano

The mezzo-soprano Markéta Cukrová is a truly phenomenal artist. Lauded for her extraordinary versatility and great sense of style, she ranks among the most sought-after Czech singers, with her repertoire ranging from early to 20th-century music. She has given well-received performances with numerous ensembles and orchestras, including La Risonanza, Mala Punica, Les Muffatti, Collegium Marianum, Ensemble Tourbillon, Collegium Vocale Gent, Collegium 1704, Musica Florea, Ensemble Inégal, Czech Ensemble Baroque, the Wroclaw Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Orkiestra Historyczna and Göttingen Festival Orchestra.  

Her discography encompasses more than 20 albums, with the most remarkable and critically acclaimed being recordings of J. D. Zelenka’s 8 Italian Arias (with Ensemble Tourbillon) and J. J. Ryba’s Stabat mater (with L’Armonie Terrena, awarded a Diapason d’Or in 2017). The most recent CD she features on is the 2018 album of Antonín Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, on which the singers are accompanied by the pianist on the composer’s grand piano (a 1879 Bösendorfer). In 2015, she was responsible for programming the Baroque festival in West Bohemia within the Plzeň – European Capital of Culture project. 

Markéta Cukrová has also worked as an educator, giving courses and lessons focused on singing technique and vocal performance. She has translated the book True Singing: A Conversation with Margreet Honig, about breathing and the human voice.

Besides regularly appearing at concerts, she has dazzled in opera. Her portrayal of Dardano in a production of Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula at the Händel-Festspiele in Göttingen, Germany, met with an enthusiastic critical response and was followed by her being invited to give a solo recital. Markéta has performed on opera stages in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, including at the State Theatre in Košice (Handel’s Alcina), the National Theatre in Brno (Offenbach’s Les contes d'Hoffmann, Martinů’s The Plays of Mary, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Saariaho’s L'Amour de loin, Rossini’s Le comte Ory, Ivanovič’s Monument), the National Theatre in Prague (Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Handel’s Rinaldo, Martinů’s Juliette) and the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava (Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, Martinů’s Juliette). In recent years, she has been shortlisted for the Opera Plus Prize in the Best Opera Singer of the Season category, and nominated for the coveted Thalia and Classic Prague Awards.

Kateřina Ghannudi   harp

Kateřina Ghannudi studied the harp with Jana Střížková in Prague and Loredana Gintoli in Verona. With the aim to revive the Czech folk tradition, in 2001 she began playing a replica of the Nechanice 19th-century harp, and went on to use Gothic and Celtic harps too. She rounded off her studies by completing the Baroque Triple Harp programme at the Conservatorio di Musica E. F. Dall’Abaco in Verona. In addition to performing as a soloist in the Czech Republic and other countries, she is a member of Germany’s La Folia Barockorchester. She has collaborated with the Quintana, Anonima Frottolisti and In Cordis ensembles as a harpist and singer, and with Collegium 1704, Czech Ensemble Baroque and Collegium Marianum as a basso continuo player. Having a penchant for different cultures (she has a master’s degree in cultural studies from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague), Kateřina Ghannudi has also performed with ensembles specialising in world music. Moreover, she has worked as an educator, teaching at the Accademia Resonars in Assisi and giving historical harps seminars.

Jan Krejča  theorbo

Jan Krejča initially played the Renaissance lute, before encompassing the theorbo and Baroque guitar too. A sought-after basso continuo player, he has performed with Czech and international ensembles (Collegium 1704, Collegium Marianum, Ensemble Inégal, Capella Cracoviensis, Capella Anna, Les Traversées Baroque, etc.), as well as renowned soloists (Jana Semerádová, Hana Blažíková, Tomáš Král, Sergio Azzolini, Judith Pacquier, Lenka Koubková, Daniel Deuter, Anna Fusek, Magdalena Kožená, and others). Jan Krejča has regularly appeared at festivals, including Prague Spring, Prague Autumn, Concentus Moraviae, Saint Wenceslas Music Festival, Haydn’s Lukavice and Summer Festivities of Early Music. He has performed on Czech Radio and Czech Television, and is featured on dozens of albums released by Accent, Arta Records, Supraphon, Rosa and other labels. His solo album Intavolatura di Tiorba contains recordings of 17-century Italian virtuoso pieces for the theorbo.


Italian evening - Caccini, Monteverdi and more

Welcome to Italy, the cradle of many artistic styles. This evening, we are making stops in Florence, Mantua, Modena, Venice, Cremona, and even down south in Naples. At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, music was undergoing a great rebirth from the complicated polyphony of the Renaissance to simple monophony with choral accompaniment. The centre for this new style of music was Florence. The members of a group of artists known as the “Florentine camerata” wanted to capture all of the affects of a sung text more flexibly. The result of their efforts was early Baroque monody, a monophonic style supported by a an instrumental bass line and harmonies. The music was dominated by gentle nuances of ornamentation and detail, but also by great passion with subject matter ranging from love to combat.

The best known representative of the Florentine camerata was the singer, lute player, violist, harpist, and composer Giulio Caccini (1551–1618). He was born in Rome, where he learned music, and from there he was attracted to Florence by Cosimo I de’ Medici. Thanks to his experience as a singer, Caccini became the decisive creative force behind the recitative with its speech-like declamatory style. In 1602 the first volume of his collection Le nuove musiche appeared, and it became a source of inspiration for many successors in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Both solo madrigals on today’s programme are from this collection.

If the programme of a concert of early Baroque music includes works by no less than three female composers, it can hardly be a coincidence. The first two are Caccini’s daughters, excellent singers who, with their father, mother, and brother Pompeo, belonged to a vocal ensemble that is twice recorded as having appeared in Paris. They also received an excellent education in music and general knowledge. The older sister was the singer, lute player, and poet Francesca Caccini (1587–1641). The Medici court held her artistry in such high regard that in 1614 she was the best paid of all of the musicians there. Besides performing her singing duties, she also managed to teach and compose. She composed several operas in the spirit of the Florentine camarata, and she published a collection of solo songs. Her sister Settimia Caccini (1591 – ca. 1638), four years younger, was active in the same field, but she did not publish a printed collection, and her compositions are scattered among various manuscript sources. She was in demand as a singer, and there is documentation of her engagements for opera performances in Florence and elsewhere.

Settimia also sang in Mantua in the early opera l’Arianna by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643). A native of Cremona, Monteverdi further developed the ideas of the Florentine camerata, and he was the creator of the new form of the madrigal. Initially he was the maestro di cappella to the House of Gonzaga in Mantua, then in 1613 he accepted the prestigious post of choirmaster at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Besides his famous series of collections of madrigals, he published other collections of secular and sacred music including his Scherzi musicali for one or two voices and basso continuo in two volumes from 1607 and 1632. The compositions you will be hearing this evening come from that collection. Compared with Monteverdi’s madrigals, this collection is gentler, more intimate, and also more humorous in character (scherzo = joke).

Monteverdi collaborated with the Venetian poet and librettist Giulio Strozzi, whose adoptive daughter Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) was a sought-after singer at an early age. The compositions of the third female composer on today’s programme are full of unusual melodic and harmonic ideas, and they were acclaimed by the most illustrious musicians of their day. She published several collections of secular vocal music in which she often set her own texts to music.

Like Monteverdi, Tarquinio Merula (1595–1665) was also from Cremona, and apart from a few interruptions, he spent his entire career as the choirmaster at the cathedral in Cremona. He wrote a number of fascinating instrumental compositions that contributed to the emancipation of instrumental music. He also composed a long list of vocal works – canzonas, madrigals, and sacred works. The Canzonetta spirituale sopra la Nanna is a gentle Christmas lullaby that reminds us of the coming events in Bethlehem.

The composer of the two solo numbers for harp and theorbo is Bellerofonte Castaldi (1581–1649). This composer, singer, and theorbo virtuoso lived in Venice, Modena, and Rome. He was an adventurer, and he wrote controversial satirical poems. He designed a new type of theorbo, the small “tiorbino”. His only preserved collection of instrumental compositions was published in 1622.

The only representative of music from southern Italy on today’s programme is Ascanio Mayone (ca. 1565–1627). He was the organist at the Church of the Santissima Annunziata Maggiore in Naples and also at the local court of the viceroy of Spain, thanks to which he also visited Spain and Portugal. He published a collection of madrigals, and some of his sacred compositions have been preserved, but above all he composed for harpsichord and organ, along with a few works for harp.