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Baroque Music in 415 Hz: Bach's Czech Contemporaries

Bechyně, Czech Republic, Thursday 14 - Sunday 24 July 2016

Places available for:

  • some more singers in all vocal groups, especially tenors and basses
  • harpsichord/organ
  • theorbo
  • some more baroque strings in all groups
  • one more baroque oboe
  • a baroque bassoon
  • two more experienced baroque dancers
For whom
Week programme and daily schedule
With whom
Register now

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 Bach's 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"

Czech Music in the Baroque Era

The treasure trove of preserved Bohemian baroque music is surprisingly rich. Particularly noteworthy were two ensembles, founded by the Bishops of Olomouc Karel Lichtenstein Kastelkorn (1664 - 1695) and Schrattenbach (1711-1738). These groups originated in Kroměříž and Olomouc. A great deal of music was preserved there.

The most identifiable personality of the early Czech 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.

The top names of the Czech high baroque era are undoubtedly Zelenka, Černohorský and Tůma. Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679 - 1745) was born in Lounovice pod Blaníkem and studied music in Vienna and Italy. In his melodic inventiveness, especially in rhythm, we find typical features of Czech music, which distinguish him from his Italian and German contemporaries. With his distinctive sense of melody Zelenka was a master of his craft, in addition to his beautiful contrapuntal technique and a rich harmonic palette. Contemporaries such as Telemann and Bach praised Zelenka's compositional abilities even during his lifetime. Please listen here to Zelenka's Hipocondrie ZWV 187.

Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský (1684 - 1742) was born in Nymburk. Little information survives about him, so his biography can only be reconstructed approximately. The same can be said of his compositions, of which, for all his renown, very few have been preserved. Among those which have been preserved are the excellent motet Laudetur Jesus Christus (a grandiose vocal fugue with organ accompaniment), motets, cantatas and a Magnificat, and several pieces for organ. His teaching resulted in an entire school of composers, including people like Seger, Zach and Tůma. Please listen to this example.

František Tůma (1704 - 1774) was Kapellmeister to the court orchestra of Count Franz Ferdinand Kinsky von Wchinitz and Tettau in Gambitz, Lower Silesia (now Karlová Koruna, Czech Republic), the highest chancellor and royal plenipotentiary for hunting in Bohemia. Tůma went to Vienna and worked as organist and choirmaster. With a scholarship from Count Kinsky, he was able to study counterpoint with Johann Joseph Fux. He participated in the premiere of Fux's opera Constanza e Fortezza together with Jiří Antonín Benda and Sylvius Leopold Weiss. In 1742 he became music director in the service of the emperor's widow, Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Then he became choirmaster of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. He composed more than sixty-five masses, five settings of the Stabat Mater, 29 psalms, 20 litanies and numerous instrumental sonatas, symphonies and partitas. Please listen to this example.

The Bach's Czech Contemporaries concert

All participants will take part in a final concert in the monastery church, the culmination of the course. The central work for all will be one of Zelenka's Litaniae lauretanae, most likely Consolatrix afflictorum ZWV 151. Similar works by Fux, Brixi and Tůma will also feature on this programme. Please listen to this excellent excerpt of a Utrecht Early Music Festival concert in 2014 by Václav Luks and his Collegium 1704. The programme will be finalized when the actual formation of singers and instrumentalists is known, probably in April. Probably we will have baroque trumpets and timpani, which will allow us to perform some very beautiful works, like Zelenka's Missa Purificationis Beatae Virginis Mariae ZWV 16. The programme will also include works for orchestra only, like Tůma's Partite e sinfonie and Zelenka's Hipocondrie ZWV 187.

The Litaniae lauretanae Consolatrix afflictorum belongs in the group of Zelenka's last great works. The composer dedicated two of his litanies to Princess Elector of Saxony and Queen of Poland Maria Josepha in the year 1744. Period references to voice specification suggest that these litanies were actually performed as a prayer for and as expression of thanks for the Queen's recovery. The composition consists of five parts where the final Agnus Dei makes use of the same music as the introductory Kyrie. The third movement Sancta Maria is the central part of crucial significance: the soprano keeps repeating a paraphrase of the choral incantation Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis (Holy Mary, pray for us) - we hear it sung in unison by the whole ensemble also at the beginning and at the end of the movement - while in other voices, sung in quick succession, come the particular titles for Virgin Mary. Then a sudden Adagio in the middle of the movement presents the "title" verses: Salus infirmorum, Consolatrix afflictorum, Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis (Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comfort of the afflicted, Help of Christians, pray for us).

You may choose to take part in the small ensembles only or perform only the Bach's 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 Bach's 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


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

rehearsal in the castle hall
strings & brass


The maximum instrumental group size is 20. For instruments we can place baroque strings (including viola da gamba), traverso/recorder, baroque oboe, baroque bassoon, baroque trumpet, early trombone/sackbut, harpsichord/organ, theorbo. The tuning pitch is 415 Hz. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

Trine Dahl-Jensen: "On the train home, a lady who had attended one of the concerts recognised the nine of us travelling together and asked us to sign her program. Hurra! A fanclub!"


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 14 July: arrival in Bechyně, course opening with dinner at 18.00 h, first rehearsal in the evening
  • Tuesday 19 July: 'free day'
  • Wednesday evening: tutors' concert in the refectory
  • Thursday evening: participants' chamber music concert
  • Saturday evening 23 July: performance of the Bach's Czech Contemporaries concert at the monastery church
  • Sunday morning 24 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


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: Dirkjan Horringa, Enrique Gómez-Cabrero Fernández, Cassandra Luckhardt and Mitchell Sandler. Marco Vitale will arrive a few days later, in time for the tutors' concert and for coaching the continuo players in the small ensembles and the Bach's Czech contemporaries programme.

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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