In the context of the Lieder Company Prague concerts, this is an exceptional evening in which we will exchange the concert hall for an intimate church setting, the piano for the sound of the organ and listen to rarely performed Czech sacred vocal music of the last two centuries.
This repertoire remains, unjustly, a kind of overlooked – undoubtedly due to the long years of domination by the totalitarian regime, anti-religious restrictions and cultural dictatorship, which violently interrupted the centuries-long tradition of Czech sacred music. During the communist era, composers associated with the church environment were persecuted, often, despite their undeniable qualities, stood outside the official sphere, and their work, without the possibility of performance and publication, fell into oblivion.
Although after 1989 there was a boom in composing and performing sacred music, the trend of the gradual secularization of society has unfortunately not been reversed and this area continues to be of no interest to musicologists, performers and organizers.
The dramaturgy of this concert focuses on Marian-themed songs by Czech composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Mary, the Mother of God, has always been loved, worshipped and sung in an extraordinary way throughout the Christian world. This was no different during the difficult 20th century, when man’s faith was so often tempted. It was then that Marian veneration in music had a wide scope and often brought comfort and hope. This is evidenced, for example, by the enormous number of Marian songs (Ave Maria, Hail Queen, Queen of Peace, etc.) composed during the war years.
The audience will have the opportunity to hear a selection of the most interesting rarely performed Marian songs by important Czech composers performed by top artists – soprano Irena Troupová, an excellent interpreter of (not only) contemporary music, mezzo-soprano Lucie Hilscherová, a sought-after singer in both song and oratorio, violinist Štěpán Ježek, a member of the renowned Bennewitz Quartet, and Linda Sítková, one of our finest organ performers.
The programme is framed by two world premieres of works composed for this evening. At the beginning will be performed Four Songs to the Virgin Mary for middle voice and organ by Jan Bernátek, written in January 2023 and dedicated to Lucie Hilscher and Linda Sítková. The concert will close with Olga Ježková‘s diptych Invocation of the Virgin Mary for soprano, alto, violin and organ, in which the previous performers will be joined by soprano Irena Troupová and the composer’s son, violinist Štěpán Ježek.
Watch the videos in which the composer Olga Ježková talks about her diptych Invocation of the Virgin Mary, which she composed for this concert on our commission, and the composer Jan Bernátek about his cycle Four Songs to the Virgin Mary.
The music of the first half of the 20th century is represented by the “Zdrávas Maria” for soprano, violin and organ by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928), the songs “Matičko Boží” for soprano, violin and organ and “Máti přesvatá” for soprano, alto and organ by Norbert Kubát (1863-1935) and “Evening Ave” for middle voice and organ by Vojtěch Adalbert Říhovský (1871-1950). This is followed by the song “Zdrávas Královno” for soprano and organ by Jaromír Herle (1872-1945), whose grandson is the renowned Czech organist and teacher Jan Hora. Among the first works of Bedřich Antonín Wiedermann (1883-1951) is “Sub tuum praesidium” for soprano, alto, violin and organ.
Jan Hanuš (1915-2004) was one of the most important composers of the second half of the 20th century. He used the Marian text in Desdemona’s prayer Ave Maria from the ballet Othello, which will be performed at the concert in the author’s arrangement for soprano and organ. Štěpán Ježek will perform a selection of movements for solo violin from the cycle “Volání Královny míru” by Václav Hálek (1937-2014). The work of contemporary composers is represented by the songs “Ave Maria” for soprano and organ and “O sanctissima” for soprano, violin and organ by Luboš Sluka (1928) and “Zdrávas Maria” and “Neopouštěj nás” for middle voice and organ by this year’s jubilarian Petr Fiala (1943).
The concert will take place on Sunday 28 March 2023 at 7.30 pm in the Church of Our Lady under the Chain in Prague.