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Baroque Music: Schütz & his Czech Contemporaries

Bechyně, Czech Republic, Thursday 20 - Sunday 30 July 2017

The programme

The historic monastery in Bechyně is the venue for an annual course of Early Music. This course has two aspects:

  • a joint programme in which all singers andinstrumentalists participate: the Schütz and Czech contemporaries concert
  • a programme of small chamber ensembles for singers and period instrument players

Jeroen van Bergeijk: "The ideal spending of a holiday : ten days of hard work in a monastery, immersed in music, with a fine group of music lovers"

Chamber music

The mornings are devoted to small ensembles. Every morning all singers and instrumentalists work on ensemble pieces in vocal, instrumental and combined vocal-instrumental ensembles. Every participant will be assigned to two different preformed ensembles, alternating regularly. At least half of the time the ensembles receive intensive coaching by the tutors. The ensembles will present themselves in an internal concert. This year the focus is on music from the Czech lands, but for the chamber music this is optional. Please feel free if you prefer to play or sing English or French music in the small ensemble programme.

Frederiek Muller: "A delicious combination of beautiful surroundings, nice people, formidable musical coaching and outstanding players and singers!"

All formations from quartet upward are possible, with perhaps a few incidental trios. Ensembles will be formed well in advance, so you can prepare your parts at home. The course is open to individual participants as well as existing ensembles. There will be time in the evenings for occasional combinations and musical get-togethers.

Lea Schuiling: "Nice of course, doing a piece like this for choir, soloists and orchestra. But the chamber music is really an asset! Singers and instrumentalists, one to a part, with coaching by all teachers ... Something you rarely get the opportunity to do! And when the teachers sometimes contradict each other, .. well, .. that gives space"

The Heinrich Schütz and his Czech contemporaries concert

All participants will take part in a final concert in the monastery church, the culmination of the course. The central works to be performed by all are: Heinrich Schütz, Musikalische Exequien SWV 279–281 and the Litanie de SS Nomini Jesu by Schütz' Czech contemporary Adam Michna.

Heinrich Schütz, Musikalische Exequien

Schütz composed his Musikalische Exequien SWV 279–281 in 1635/36 on the occasion of the death of his lord Heinrich Posthumus Reuss. During his lifetime, the prince had compiled a collection of Bible verses and lyrics with which his coffin was to be labeled. Henry's widow handed over the same text collectionto after his death to Schütz, who took it as the foundation of the first part of the Exequia, the Funeral Mass. In this form, the musical exequia were heard for the first time at the mourning ceremony for Heinrich Posthumus, Schütz concluded the setting of the same text as a motet as the second part of the Exequies. For the burial of the coffin in the family tomb, the final five-voice motet sounded, Now you let your servant go in peace. The musical exequia appeared in 1636 in Dresden in print as Schütz ' Opus 7. It comprises the following sections:

  1. Concert 'in Form einer teutschen Begräbnis-Messe'
  2. Motet Herr, wenn ich nur Dich habe
  3. Canticum Simeonis Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener

Part I, by far the longest part of the Work, is written for choir SSATTB, interspersed with small ensembles of soloists. Part II is for double chorus SATB-SATB, and Part III for SATTB choir and a remotely located trio of soloists. All movements are accompanied by basso continuo; in this course we will observe the practice of the era to double the vocal lines in the choral sections with instruments.

Henry II had planned the service himself and chosen the texts, some of which are scriptural and others of which are from 16th-century Lutheran writers, including Martin Luther himself. He also commissioned Schütz to compose the music on the occasion of his death. The work was the first Requiem composition in the German language. It is striking that, although Brahms didn't know Schütz' work well, his Deutsches Requiem is remarkably similar in structure and content.

Adam Michna, Litanie de SS Nomini Jesu 

The most identifiable personality of the Czech early baroque is the composer, organist and poet from Jindřichův Hradec, Adam Michna z Otradovic (1600- 1676). With his creative energy, he earned a significant place in the music of the time. He published two collections, entitled Česká Mariánská muzyka (1647, Czech music for the Virgin) and Svatoroční muzyka (1661, Music for the Holy Year), four- and five-part spiritual songs, often based on folk songs. The artistically more ambitious Loutna česká (1653, The Czech Lute) was a collection of spiritual compositions for two sopranos accompanied by two or three violins, violas and viols. Please listen to this example.

 Michna's genius is in his brilliant rhythmic structures. His work is characterized by a subtle and complex blend of rhythmic variations, rhythmic patterns often changing from three-four time to two-four time within a single piece. This command of rhythm and breadth of musical colour equals that of his Italian contemporaries. Michna is as important for Czechs as Heinrich Schütz for Germans. Apart from having been an outstanding composer of both simple church songs and sophisticated figural works, Michna also left to posterity a highly individual output of verse. His entire known production was inspired exclusively by the world of Catholic spirituality.

The twelfth volume of the new complete edition of his works contains the Litaniae de SS. nomine Jesu, Litaniae B.M.V., and a Te Deum. It is the final part of Michna´s most extensive collection of sacred music, Sacra et litaniae, comprising six masses, two litanies and a Te Deum.  The collection´s compositions probably date from different periods. The Sacra et litaniae was first published in 1654, like most of Michna´s production by the Academic Press of the Clementinum in Prague. The Litaniae de SS. nomine Jesu is characterized by restrained expression, with an alternation of tutti, concertante solo sections and double choir; that last feature assigning it a solemn note. The score requires two four-voice choirs (each with four "proper" soloists). The prescribed instrumental forces consist of two violins "cum aliis instrumentis ad libitum" - so plus four violas da gamba or trombones, and of course basso continuo. 

You may choose to take part in the small ensembles only or perform only the Schütz and Czech contemporaries concert and to 'have time off' during the remaining time.

The sheet music of commonly available repertoire is usually provided by the participants themselves. More uncommon repertoire and scores of the Schütz and Czech contemporaries concert are provided by La Pellegrina, usually in the form of a PDF sent by E-mail, which the participants should print out themselves and bring to the course.

For whom

Singers

There is room for up to 20 experienced singers. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

rehearsal in the castle hall
strings & brass

Instrumentalists

The maximum instrumental group size is 20. For instruments we can place baroque strings, viola da gamba, recorder, curtal/dulcian, trombone/sackbut, harpsichord/organ, theorbo; period instruments only, tuning pitch 440 Hz. This tuning pitch is chosen for historical and musical reasons. The tuning pitch in Schütz' days was higher rather than lower than modern concert pitch. Because the ideal pitch of a'= 465 Hz raises unsurmountable obstacles, we chose a' = 440 Hz as the most practical alternative. A pitch of 415 Hz would have no historical grounds and would make the music to sound too low in the singing voices.

To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

Staffan Rudner: "I think it was great that the tutors also took part in the music as players. Marco Vitale in particular, who dared to play the baroque oboe despite not being professional on that instrument"

Dancers

Dancers at work
dancers at work

Renaissance dance is a substantial part of the course. Experience with 16th-century dance and/or extensive experience with e.g. classical ballet and folk dance is required. There is room for six to twelve dancers, working under the guidance of specialist Dorothée Wortelboer. The dancers will work as a separate group on the style of the late 16th-century Renaissance dance and rehearse the dances for the Intermedii. Later in the course they will work with the instrumentalists and singers during rehearsals, in which the Intermedii are put together as music theater.

Week programme and daily schedule

Week programme

  • Thursday 20 July: arrival in Bechyně, course opening with dinner at 18:00 h, first rehearsal in the evening
  • Tuesday 25 July: 'free day'
  • Wednesday evening: tutors' concert in the refectory
  • Thursday evening: participants' chamber music concert
  • Saturday evening 29 July: performance of the Schütz and Czech contemporaries concert at the monastery church
  • Sunday morning 30 July: departure after breakfast

Annelies Jans: "Each morning two rehearsals, each afternoon two rehearsals, and what we do on our free evenings? Right, make music as much as possible...!"

double reed quartet
double reed quartet

Daily Schedule

Staffan Rudner: "The tutors were able to adapt to the potential of all of us. After the course a new energy has come to our practicing and playing at home."

camp fire
after party at the camp fire

Where

Read more about Bechyně, the place where the course will be held:

Roeland Gerritsen: "To make music on a high level (with qualified teachers AND students) at a unique location in Europe in a fantastic atmosphere, I can heartily recommend this to anyone"

With whom

The tutors of this course are passionate specialists in their fields: Enrique Gómez-Cabrero Fernández, Dirkjan Horringa, Cassandra Luckhardt, Mitchell Sandler. and Marco Vitale.

Register now

In order to register, please fill out this form and pay a deposit of EUR 200 (which is of course refundable in case you cannot be placed).

Frederiek Muller: "So wonderful that it is already music from the first moment!"

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