Prague’s summer season will once again be enlivened by the Summer Festivities of Early Music. From July 20 to August 5, over seven evenings, audiences are invited to sample mainly the music of aristocratic courts – from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to Baroque and the Rococo period. The festival will thus draw audiences into an inspiring world that is inextricably linked with the creation of many extraordinary works and specific musical forms, as a number of leading composers worked at the aristocratic courts. Performed by leading foreign ensembles and the Czech Republic’s Collegium Marianum, which specialises in early music, it will include works composed for the Spanish kings, the courts of his French colleagues Louis XIV. and Louis XV. or for Britain’s Princess Anne of Hanover. In addition to the oldest musical instrument, the human voice, listeners can also admire non-traditional and often forgotten musical instruments, such as the medieval lute, the fiddle, the Irish harp and the vihuela de arco.
The festival will open with the leading German vocal ensemble Calmus Ensemble, which will present the works of masters of Renaissance vocal polyphony with proverbial precision, lightness and rich palette of shades of colour. The Italian ensemble la fonte musica will explore the sounds of the fiddle and the medieval lute, A nocte temporis from Belgium will bring to listeners the sounds of Irish gardens and the Spanish ensembles La Ritirata and Capella de Ministrers will present music from beyond the Pyrenees. The program also includes the festival’s ensemble in residence Collegium Marianum. Along with a septet of French singers, the ensemble will close the 22nd Summer Festivities of Early Music with a modern-day world premiere of the divertissement Le Retour des dieux sur la terre by François Colin de Blamont, composed for the French royal court. “We are continuing our very successful and fruitful collaboration with the Center for French baroque music in Versailles. And it is there, as part of a “royal soirée”, that we will take festival listeners. This will take place in the form of two shorter operas that were intended for concert performance in the Royal Apartments. In addition to a modern-day premiere of Blamont’s work, we will also hear Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Les Plaisirs de Versailles,” says Jana Semerádová, the festival’s Programming and Artistic Director. We should add that among the other successes of Jana Semerádová, the prime mover of the Summer Festivities of Early Music, are her nomination for this year’s “Anděl”, the most renowned Czech music award, in the classical music category for the album Chaconne for the Princess, performed with Erich Traxler and featuring works by George Frideric Handel and Jean-Marie Leclair that were composed for the talented British Princess Anne of Hanover. The live performance of these works will be one of the highlights of this year’s festival.
The festival programme will be complemented by international courses in advanced interpretation from the Versailles Academy and interpretation seminars with members of the Calmus Ensemble and La Ritirata.
The subtitle of the 22nd season of the festival is “NOBILITAS”, and the concerts will reflect aristocratic values, refinement and “nobility” and its various forms in a broad sense, as well as how these concepts have changed over time in relation to European musical culture. The concerts will take place in both sacred and secular historical spaces of the capital city; in one case, the festival will also benefit from the unique atmosphere of a chateau garden, and festival-goers will also have a first opportunity to look inside the newly renovated spaces of the so-called “Šlechtovka” summer palace in Stromovka park. This combination of nobility and music includes not only the dimension of court entertainment, but also the very important need for representation and a symbol of social status in contemporary society. As such, musical productions became on the one hand an aesthetic pastime or the manifestation of enthusiastic musical patronage, on the other hand an indirect instrument of political influence and a welcome means of displaying sovereign or aristocratic majesty and its inviolability. This dimension is reflected not only in the aristocratic musical culture of the early modern period as such, but also in the themes of the works performed. The festival programme will encompass royal, gubernatorial, ducal, papal, dogal and other courts of the high aristocracy. The cultivated and music-loving environment of these extremely important cultural centres, which radiated throughout the whole of Europe, will also cast its glow on this year’s festival.