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Dec 12, 2010 3:00 PM - 4:45 PM

Czech Christmas Music

Christmas Concert. Czech early music group Ritornello andNYU Collegiate Chorus. American Premiere of Georg Zrunek's 1766 Comic-Pastoral Christmas Mass.

Czech early music group Ritornello
Michal Pospíšil, Martin Kaplan, Jan Mikušek, Josef Fiala

NYU Collegiate Chorus
Paulette Ang, Lydia Brown, Brian Chae, Gabriela Chavez, Zoie Mancino, Jack McLauglin, Amanda Sanker, Nickhil Sethi, Grace Shay

Suggested Donation $10

$5 for students and seniors, and members of the Czech Center Club

Ritornello was founded by Michal Pospisil a performer, scholar, and visionary interpreter of Stara hudba (English Early Music). He and his group have recorded several wonderful albums of such things as Hunting Songs, Carnival Music, Christmas Carols, the "Czech Lute" of Adam Michna and a marvelous CD of Michna's Christmas Mass, "Jiz slunce z hvezdy vyslo." They have also released an important CD featuring the music of Holan Rovensky, whose music will also be featured on the concert.

The NYU Collegiate Choir consists of the students in a seminar on Christmas music; NYU freshmen of extraordinary ability who have been studying Christmas traditions of all kinds and will be working for the next week with Ritornello preparing the program.

Georg Zrunek and his Mass:
Jiri (Georg) Zrunek (1736-1789) was born in the south Moravian village of Vnorovy, Zrunek studied at the Piarist seminary in Kromeriz and then, having undertaken further studies in Trnov and Uherske Hradiste, was ordained as a priest in Hlohovec. He then worked variously as teacher, priest, organist and preacher at a number of locations in Slovakia and Hungary. He died at Nizsia Sebastova in Slovakia.

His Christmas Mass is of the type that incorporates textual interpolations in the vernacular, which points to its being intended no so much for services within the communion of the Franciscan brotherhood as rather for communicating the spiritual meaning of Chirstmas to the monastery church's lay visitors. The very principle, adopted in this music, of combining folk elements with passages of thoroughly conventional Baroque style is surely what makes it so very appealing to the contemporary listener. The Benedictus, for example, contains a magnificent piece of sound-painting in which the "Bleating" of sheep is combined with the sound of folk musical instruments. There is, however, no hint of mocking humor in such effects: the Franciscan brethren would never have allowed ridicule a place in texts that were intended for the divine service. Zrunek's use of folk song and traditional instruments was prompted also by his practical experience as a priest, which brought him into contact with the simple folk of Moravia and Slovakia, and which might well have been the principal source of inspiration behind the composition of this Christmas mass.

Michna and Rovensky are two major figures of the Czech Baroque, and two of the treasures of Czech and European music. Michna (1600-76) was an important figure in Jindrichuv Hradec. His compositions include several volumes of sacred music and the marvelous "Czech Lute," a series of songs depicting a battle between the flesh and the spirit. He is the author of several Christmas pieces, the most famous of which, "Chtic aby spal" is still sung today. Holan Rovensky was a fascinating figure as well. Active in Prague and elsewhere, he compiled the Capella Regia Musicalis in 1693-4 which contains hundreds of pieces of various sorts in the words of Michal Pospisil ("some of the songs seem to have come running in from a small grove, park, garden, or field-path, or, conversely, running back to them"). Rovensky ended his life as a hermit and a stone mason.


Dec 12, 2010 3:00 PM - 4:45 PM


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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