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Czech Chamber Music Society • Collegium Marianum


One of the most respected Czech ensembles in the field of informed interpretation of early music is Collegium Marianum. As part of the Year of Czech Music, they will present two composers not heard frequently on concert programmes: František Ignác Antonín Tůma and František Jiránek. It is quite likely that the latter studied with Vivaldi himself!

Subscription series I | Duration of the programme 1 hour 25 minutes | Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

František Ignác Antonín Tůma 
Partita in D minor (16')
Sinfonia in B flat major (11')

František Jiránek 
Concerto in D major for flauto traverso, strings, and basso continuo (10')

— Intermission —

František Ignác Antonín Tůma 
Sonata à quattro in A minor (6')

František Jiránek
Sinfonia in B flat major (9')
Concerto in G major for flauto traverso, strings, and basso continuo (11')

Performers

Collegium Marianum 
Lenka Torgersen concertmaster
Jana Semerádová flauto traverso, artistic director

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Collegium Marianum

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Dear listeners,
the date of the concert has been moved from December 18 to December 4.

We are looking forward to seeing you.

Performers

Collegium Marianum  

Since it was founded in 1997, the Prague ensemble Collegium Marianum has focused on presenting the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially by composers who were born or active in central Europe. One of the few professional ensembles specializing in this field in the Czech Republic, Collegium Marianum not only gives musical performances, but regularly also stages scenic projects.

The ensemble works under the artistic leadership of the traverso player Jana Semerádová who also regularly appears as a soloist with some of the eminent European orchestras. Her unique, thematic programming has resulted in a number of modern-day premieres of historical music presented each year.

The ensemble has collaborated with renowned European conductors, soloists, directors, and choreographers such as Andrew Parrott, Hana Blažíková, François Fernandez, Simona Šaturová or Gudrun Skamletz, and regularly performs at music festivals and on prestigious stages both in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe. 

In 2008 the ensemble started a successful collaboration with the Supraphon label. Within the “Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague” series it has launched eight recordings featuring music by well-known and lesser-known composers such as J. D. Zelenka, F. Jiránek, J. J. I. Brentner, and J. A. Sehling. 
In January 2010 Collegium Marianum was awarded with an honor for the credits of quality and for the general promotion of Czech music, presented by the International Music Council by UNESCO.

Since 2001 Collegium Marianum has presented the concert cycle Baroque Soirées. Thanks to its thematic programming and close interconnection with the historical spaces of Old Prague, the series is unique not only in the Czech, but also international context. Collegium Marianum is the ensemble in residence of the international music festival Summer Festivities of Early Music.

Lenka Torgersen  violin

Lenka Torgersen

Lenka Torgersen studied violin at the Pilsen Conservatory and subsequently at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under Václav Snítil. After graduating she focused intensively on Baroque violin and honed her skills from at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis under the tutelage of Chiara Banchini.

From 1999 to 2012 she was concertmaster of Collegium 1704. Currently concertmaster of Collegium Marianum, she also works regularly with other Czech and international ensembles including La Cetra Barockorchester Basel, Les Traversées Baroques or Ensemble Tourbillon. As a chamber musician and soloist she performs at major music festivals and also collaborates with various leading figures in early music including René Jacobs, Andrea Marcon, Jordi Savall or Attilio Cremonesi.

Torgersen has recorded for renowned international labels such as Harmonia Mundi, Accent, Zig-Zag Territoires and Pan Classics. The album she recorded as a soloist with Collegium 1704, featuring the instrumental works of Antonín Reichenauer, received the Diapason d’Or award. In 2013, Suprahon published her solo CD entitled ‘‘Il Violino Boemo’’, a modern-day premiere reviving the sonatas of the 18th century Czech violin virtuosi František Benda, Josef Antonín Gurecký and František Jiránek. This recording also garnered enthusiastic reviews from both Czech and foreign critics.

Jana Semerádová  flute

Jana Semerádová

Flautist Jana Semerádová, a laureate of the Magdeburg and Munich international competitions, is a graduate of the Prague Conservatory, the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University (Theory and Practice of Early Music), and the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, the Netherlands. In 2015 she received her habilitation degree as an associate professor of flute from the Faculty of Music and Dance at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

She is the artistic director of Collegium Marianum, programming director of the concert cycle Baroque Soirées and of the international music festival Summer Festivities of Early Music. Undertaking intensive archival research both at home and abroad while being engaged in ongoing study of Baroque gesture, declamation and dance, many of her unique programmes are built around the interconnection of music and drama.

Under her direction, Collegium Marianum stages several modern premieres each year. Their recordings are featured as part of the successful series ‘‘Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague’’ on the Supraphon label, for which Semerádová has also recorded her two signature CDs ‘‘Solo for the King’’ and ‘‘Chaconne for the Princess‘‘.

Jana Semerádová has performed at leading European concert venues and festivals, and regularly performs with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Wrocławska Orkiestra Barokowa or Orkiestra Historyczna as a soloist. In 2019 she was awarded the prize of the Prague Group of the Society for Arts and Sciences. 

Compositions

František Ignác Antonín Tůma
Partita in D minor & Sinfonia in B flat major & Sonata à quattro in A minor

We shall begin with Tůma, whose Partita in D minor opens today’s concert. The only work on the programme in the form of an orchestral suite, it is a very unusual example of the genre. The slow – fast sequence of the first two movements can be understood as the composer’s reference to the French overture, which traditionally opens the Baroque orchestral suite. Tůma, of course, was composing during the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods, and in addition we find ourselves in Vienna, so what we have here is an example of what was called a Viennese divertimento, a secular instrumental music with a succession of movements of sharply contrasting character. The seriousness of the opening movements contrasts with the arietta, in which the viola takes the lead, and a menuet and trio are placed at the very centre of the composition.

Traditionally, Tůma is said to have been a singer at Prague’s Minorite Church of St James, and he is usually listed among the pupils of Father Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský. They may have met shortly after 1720, when Černohorský returned from Italy. Soon after that, however, Tůma left for Vienna, where the oldest documented trace of him is found: records of his marriage in 1727. He was employed in the service of Count Franz Ferdinand Kinsky, who enabled him to perfect his language skills and arranged for him to study under the imperial court Kapellmeister Johann Joseph Fux, a famed composer and teacher. When Tůma applied unsuccessfully in 1734 for the position of Kapellmeister at the cathedral in Prague, Count Kinsky recommended him, calling Tůma “the only person so far capable of imitating the famed imperial Kapellmeister Fux and of working in accordance with his rules.” After the count’s death in 1741, Tůma served for another two decades as the Kapellmeister to the empress dowager Elisabeth Christine. Tůma wrote many compositions for his brilliant ensemble of professional musicians. After the death of the empress dowager, the ensemble was dissolved, and Tůma was granted a pension allowing him to devote himself to music freely, first in Vienna, then from 1768 at the Premonstratensian monastery in Geras. He died in Vienna in 1774.

The influence of Černohorský and Fux, the abundance of opportunities to compose for wonderful musicians, and the inspiration of Vienna’s musical life offered uniquely fertile ground for Tůma to cultivate his own personal style, which exhibits a certain conservatism combined with stylistic elements that were quite contemporary. We find both in his Sinfonia a quattro in B flat major, which represents another basic instrumental genre of the period. The music is conservative in terms of its four-movement structure and the absence of dance movements or the relative equality of the two violin parts in the opening pair of movements, recalling the trio sonata genre. However, the concentrated, expressive musical language is entirely in keeping with the times. The same applies to the two-movement Sonata in A major, which represents a kind of instrumental sacred composition often used in place of the Gradual, i.e., before the Gospel. These were usually three-voice compositions corresponding to the first two movements of a trio sonata, but performed by large orchestral forces. In this case, however, the pair of violins is joined by two more violino ripieno parts, which add another independent musical layer to the composition. It is possible that these were originally movements of a now lost concerto grosso by Tůma, adapted later for the given purpose.

František Jiránek
Concerto in D major & Sinfonia in B flat major & Concerto in G major

While we have compared Tůma’s compositions with the trio sonata several times, the solo concerto is of similarly key importance for František Jiránek. Already as a boy, Jiránek was employed in the service of Count Václav Morzin, to whom Jiránek’s birthplace Lomnice nad Popelkou belonged. The youth worked first as a page and then as a doorkeeper (prefectus aulae). The bright lad was musically talented, and the count did not hesitate to invest in his education, having him go to Prague to study at the Jesuit grammar school in the Lesser Town and even sending him to Italy in 1724. We know about his two-year stay in Italy only because of the count’s personal financial records, in which Morzin made entries in his own hand for payments sent to Jiránek in Venice. The count clearly sent Jiránek to Venice to study music, where he worked directly under Antonio Vivaldi. Beginning in 1718 and throughout the 1720s, Morzin was paying the famed Venetian to serve as his maestro di musica in Italia, making him the titular Kapellmeister, whose task was to supply compositions for a virtuosic ensemble. Solo concertos are predominant among these compositions, including the famous cycle The Four Seasons. After his return in 1726 Jiránek played in Count Morzin’s ensemble, established a family, and lived in Prague’s Lesser Town. When the count died in 1737, the musicians had to seek other employment. After some reversals of fortune, Jiránek found work in Dresden under the first minister of the Polish-Saxon Union, Count Heinrich von Brühl. As a violinist, he was one of the ensemble’s best-paid members. The ensemble was dissolved after the death of its owner in 1763, but Jiránek remained in Dresden until 1778, when he died at the age of eighty.

Jiránek’s studies in Venice are indirectly documented by his sporadically preserved compositions, in which Vivaldi’s direct influence is clearly discernible. One might even speculate that some of the works are Vivaldi’s own, preserved under Jiránek’s name. Once such work is the Flute Concerto in D major (Jk 11), which has also been preserved in a version for oboe. The concerto, laid out in the typical three-movement form, is imbued with Vivaldi’s musical language including the plentiful use of sequences or the reversed dotted rhythm (Lombard rhythm or “Scotch snap”) used at the beginning of the first movement’s ritornello. The first movement also conceals a quote of a motif from Vivaldi’s psalm setting Dixit Dominus, RV 807, and Vivaldi liked using such quotes. Was this the pupil’s reference to a work by the master, or was a work by the master preserved under his pupil’s name? 

The Sinfonia in F major (Jk 4) is the only composition on today’s programme to have been preserved in Prague, but it apparently was not written until after Jiránek’s departure from Bohemia. With the melodic simplicity of the violin parts (often in unison) and the simple fabric of the accompanimental voices, the three-movement sinfonia contrasts sharply with Tůma’s Sinfonia in B flat major. Despite its simplicity, the music is characterised by elegant immediacy and brilliancy supported by rustic elements in the dance-like third movement. Both flute concertos on today’s programme were preserved in Stockholm, and both have in common the striking use of the Lombard rhythm (“Scotch snap”). The brilliant Concerto in G major (Jk 13) was also definitely known in the Czech lands because it is listed in the 1771 inventory of the music collection at the Rajhrad Monastery.

Italy, Vienna, and Dresden clearly delineate the artistic influences affecting the music of the Bohemian lands during the first two thirds of the 18th century. Given these traditions and the talent of the musicians of that period, we can clearly see how so much beautiful could come into being. It is wonderful that this music is now being revived and brought back home.

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