Musica Bohemica - Songs And Dances Of Bohemian Baroque

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The pieces assembled on these two discs are drawn from several collections: Pet baroknich tancu (Five Baroque Dances) by Kristian Hirschmentzel (1638–1703); Trí Hanácké tance (Three Dances from Haná), a collection dating from c.1700; Písne a tance ze Zlatokorunské sbírky Ond?eje H?lky (Songs and Dances from the Collection of Ond?ej H?lky from Zlatá Koruna); and Nejstar?í sbírky ?eských lidových písní a tanc? (The Oldest Collections of Czech Folk Songs and Dances). The last-named source, a critical edition of which was published by Supraphon in 1987, in turn comprises materials from various sources. These include (if I am not misreading the somewhat confusing booklet notes) the 400 ?eské národní písne (Czech Folk Songs) published by Jan Ritter von Ritterberg in 1825; the 87 Staré svetské písne (Old Secular Songs) from the region around the central Bohemian village of Sadská, published at about the same time; manuscripts compiled by Jirí Hartl (1781–1849), a schoolmaster from Stara Paka; and the Bon Repos Book, compiled beginning in 1720 at the behest of Count Frantisek Antonin Spork (1662–1738). Many of these songs and dances were first preserved in written and published form due to “governorate gatherings,” official projects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to collect folk materials of its indigenous peoples that were initiated in 1818. Some of these sources exist only in second-hand form; for example, of the 160 pieces originally collected by the famed fiddler Ondrej Hulky (1752–1806) from the region around the Zlatá Koruna monastery in the Ceské Budejovice region of southern Bohemia, only 50 have survived due to their inclusion in the final 1864 edition of an anthology published by the Czech historian and poet Karel Jaromir Erben (1811–70), Prostonárodní ceské písne a ?íkadla (Czech Folk Songs and Nursery Rhymes), as Hulky’s original manuscript has not survived.

The designation “Baroque” is potentially misleading; virtually all of these items are believed to date back at least to the early 17th century, and just as well might be termed “late Renaissance”; they are all of a style that immediately brings to mind a Czech counterpart to Michael Praetorius. The arrangements and instrumentations of all the pieces have been undertaken by conductor Jaroslav Kr?ek and his brother Josef. A total of 68 dances and songs are presented, of which about 20 are purely instrumental while the remainder have one (or occasionally more) singer. The instrumentation is extremely colorful, with the performers drawing upon fipple flutes, cimbaloms, tarogatos, hurdy-gurdies, and even some otherwise unspecified “instruments newly devised and made by their own hands.” All the performances are, as one would anticipate, utterly idiomatic and charming, even if the singers are less polished and more rustic than I personally prefer. The recorded sound is excellent. Unfortunately no texts of any sort are provided for the songs. Despite this drawback, if you love folk music or Renaissance dance music collections and are looking to expand your collection in a slightly more exotic direction, then you definitely will want to acquire this set.

FANFARE: James A. Altena

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SU4098-2

  • UPC: 099925409821

  • Label: Supraphon

  • Composer: Anonymous, Traditional

  • Conductor: Jaroslav Krcek

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Musica Bohemica