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MAGNIFICAT
Jaroslav Tůma, organ

 

F10255   [8595017425523]   released 11/2020

Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, Johann Erasmus Kindermann, Nicolas Lebègue, Johann Pachelbel, Hieronymus Praetorius, Heinrich Scheidemann, Samuel Scheidt, Jean Titelouze, Jaroslav Tůma

Selected sound samples:

play album Magnificat 2:31:42
1. Zvony v Horní Polici 1:46
2. Praeludium a fuga No.1 in C 1:25
3. Praeludium in C BuxWV137 6:11
4. Magnificat tertii toni - Choral 1 Versus a 4 Voc 2:38
5. Magnificat secundi toni - Choral 1 Versus in Tenore 1:42
6. Fuga sopra il Magnificat BWV733 5:30
7. Magnificat du 4e ton - Prélude 1:06
8. Ciaccona in eBuxWV160 7:02


Pavel Šmolík and Schola Cantorum Pilsensis co-perform in the chants.

Organ from 1712 by Tobias Fleck was reconstructed by Vladimír Šlajch in 2019. 

The church in Horní Police is consecrated to the Visitation of the Virgin Mary. This event from the life of the Virgin Mary, described in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, tells of Mary’s journey to the hill country near Jerusalem, where the Mother of God went to be close to her relative Elizabeth, who was with child although she was advanced in years. At this encounter between these two blessed women, Elizabeth uttered the words that comprise a part of what is perhaps the best known Marian prayer – the Hail Mary: “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb.” In reaction to this, Mary prays the words that are some of the most famous recorded by mankind: “My soul doth magnify the Lord…”, in Latin “Magnificat animat mea Dominum”. Therefore, as the parish administrator in Horní Police, I expressed the wish that the first organ piece recorded on our organ be devoted to the Magnificat. That canticle is a universal prayer expressing the attitude of a humble person towards God and reminding us that praise is our duty of honour. For that reason, since ancient times the Magnificat has been a daily part of the Church’s evening prayers – Vespers, when one looks back at the day one has lived and realises how many gifts one has been given in that single day. That is why the Magnificat is the daily bread of Christians, and why the canticle has been set to music so many times.

Father Stanislav Přibyl

Since time immemorial, the Church has worshipped God through not only liturgical services, but also works of art. In this sense, we perceive these things as being in a particularly exemplary synthesis in the Baroque period. Architectural gems of the time and their setting in the landscape, sculptures inside and outside of churches, paintings, beautiful words and music – all of this still has an equally powerful effect today if we discover and receive their message. Over the centuries, musical settings of the text of the Magnificat and alternating combinations of the plainchant with organ compositions on this theme have been just as common as the paintings depicting these scenes on altarpieces.

Present-day mankind, however remote from God he may seem to be (which is, incidentally, something that has been occurring regularly and periodically since ancient times as we are also told by many stories in the Bible), is sometimes nearly defenceless before the effects of artworks including music. While you can’t get through to some people just by talking about faith, works of art, poetry, or listening to beautiful music can speak to or move them, opening back up a path for faith to reach them. In my experience, that is a good enough reason for the Church and its representatives to continue to value and support cultural heritage in general, including the liturgy and the organ, which is definitely essential to the liturgy.

Living among us are figures who are prominent in the best sense of the word, but at the same time, by their actions and their influence, they also divide society or even the community of believers. Often, in fact, they unintentionally turn individuals with differing mindsets and opinions against each other. I respect and appreciate everyone who has something to say, show, or demonstrate, but on the other hand I admire all the more those persons whose actions and words attempt to do the exact opposite, i.e. to bring people together and to engage them in non-confrontational activity for the good of all. They compel them to forget about the wrongs done to each other and instead to seek the common good. While Father Stanislav Přibyl is not the sort of person who tries to ingratiate himself to everyone, he definitely still understands and experiences the world in the latter way. Horní Police and the people who have gathered around it have witnessed his efforts to elevate the Christian experience at the local parish on ordinary Sundays and special feast days. Thanks to him and his colleagues, they have also witnessed tangible changes to the condition of important cultural artefacts such as the unique local pilgrimage site. The restoration of the church and cloisters and of the interior furnishings of the church including the organ and bells brings joy to the locals and to pilgrims.

If organs are not merely artistic accessories for the interior decoration of churches, but are also full-fledged, functional musical instruments, they not only add beauty to the interior of a religious site, but also fill it with noble sounds, literally bringing spiritual illumination to the space. After an organ concert, Bishop Josef Hrdlička, an enthusiastic musician, declared: “All of the priests should have been here, so they could hear how one needs to pray.” It was my dear colleague Antonín Schindler, organist at St Maurice’s Church in Olomouc, who passed on this quote to me.

Several times on a variety of occasions, I have already emphasised that the size of an organ given by the number of pipes, manuals, and stops is not at all important or decisive for the determination of the instrument’s quality. Even the smallest organs can be exceptionally valuable. The instrument in Horní Police, if we were to think in terms of the categorisation of other objects of material value, would belong to the lower middle class with respect to its size. In fact, this is an absolutely unique organ in terms of the originality of its conception, the manner in which it is carried out, and its utility.

The exceptional nature of Šlajch’s ideas on organ building arose from several sources. Firstly, in the archival records there are mentions of the “Gallic sound” of the original local instrument by the organ master builder Tobias Fleck from nearby Česká Kamenice. Secondly, there was the influence of the somewhat atypical spatial layout of the preserved Baroque organ case, which was expanded over times. Finally, Šlajch’s organ was neither intended nor needed to be a narrowly conceived copy of an old instrument that had not been preserved at all comprehensively. We do not even know its former disposition. According to archival references, the instrument had a low tuning at a' = 415 Hz, and at the same time it evokes the period of the creation of the original instrument with its highly unequal meantone temperament, yet at the same time its range of notes exceeds the norms for the region – it is fully chromatic upwards from great C, ending in the manual at d3 and in the pedal at d1. This allows for a fundamental expansion of the repertoire that can be played on this instrument in comparison with other organs in this country. If, for example, we have in mind an ideal rendering of central or northern German organ music of the 16th century through the 18th, in this country we usually have to do without at least one of the characteristics corresponding to organs of that period. Either the instruments are not tuned to a' = 415 Hz, or they use a bland equal temperament, or else we are missing some of the necessary keys and pedals and therefore certain notes. At present, the organ in Horní Police is the only one in this country to combine all of the aforementioned attributes.

At first glance, the 2 CD set reveals three levels of dramaturgy. One important line running through the programme is musical settings of the canticle Magnificat by different composers. The number of movements varies depending on the use of plainchant in different ways, or sometimes even its entire absence. Specifically, this is the case with the Magnificat primi toni by Dietrich Buxtehude and among the fugues of Johann Pachelbel. Buxtehude constructed his musical form relatively dramatically as a single, musically meaningful whole. Likewise, the number of Pachelbel’s fugues, although only a selection and not all of them are heard here, corresponds to the verses of the plainchant. The inclusion of eight compositions based on the Magnificat is not random; it corresponds to the modes (keys) in which the old masters often wrote their compositions. In order to present as many styles and characters as possible, only one work by each composer is heard. Clearly, the particular colour of organ sound is influenced by not only the choice of registration, but also the different sounds made by identical registrations in various modes thanks to the differently structured micro-intervallic relationships given by the irregularities of the meantone temperament.

The Magnificat settings by French composers are surprising. Even if the Basse de Trompette, for example, sounds more like a Basse de Cromorne, and the Cornet is substituted for by a combination of Flaute minor, a 2' Principal, and Sesquialtera played an octave lower, so when listening we perceive Šlajch’s organ as a kind of chameleon, which can successfully create a world of sound that is relatively unusual in this country. We find similar stylistic overlaps, by the way, in the recently completed organ at Podobných Svatá Hora in Příbram.

Preludes and fugues chosen from the collection Ariadne musica by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer represent another common thread running through the programme of the 2 CD set. A native of Krásno in the Cheb region, Fisher first served in Ostrov as the Kapellmeister at the Saxe-Lauenburg court and later as the Kapellmeister at the Baden court, then from 1715 he lived in Rastatt. Although it is not documented, it cannot be ruled out that Fischer had contacts with the manor in Horní Police, because the patroness of the pilgrimage site in Horní Police Anna Marie Františka Toskánská was the sister of Sibylle Augusta, Markgravine of Baden.

Because of the extraordinary qualities of the organ in Horní Police, the 2 CD set also includes non-programmatic works by Dietrich Buxtehude. There is no more appropriate organ in this country for the interpretation of his toccatas and fugues, limited of course to those composed in keys with up to three sharps or three flats – again, this is given by the possibilities of the local organ’s meantone temperament. Ideally, for Buxtehude’s music we would envision a large church and an organ with at least an 8' principal, but in the smaller Horní Police church the coupling of two 8' ranks of the great organ, which successfully imitate the colour of the principal, produces a sound that is entirely sufficient. An 8' reed stop in the pedal used together with a 16' sub-bass, for example, serves just as substantially for the bass line. Incidentally, in northern Germany we find not only cathedrals in the rich Hanseatic cities, but also more intimate churches in small towns or rural areas that are comparable to Horní Police. The music in question was certainly played there as well. It so happens that many of the historic organs preserved there lack pedals or are equipped with a much smaller number of registers than are found on the organ in Horní Police.

The beginning of the first CD is devoted to the restored bells of Horní Police. They were cast by the Czech bellfounder Petr Rudolf Manoušek. They are tuned to the notes F, A flat, and C, but because their tuning is based on a' = 440 Hz, which is exactly a semitone higher than the tuning of the local organ, for the final musical number, which combines the sounds of the bells and of the organ, it was necessary to transpose motifs from the music of Michel Corrett into the tonic key of F sharp minor. Preference was given to a minor key because the overtones of bells always include a prominently heard partial at the interval of the minor third. If you immerse yourself attentively enough into listening to the music with which our recording says its farewell, you will notice the very intense feeling of being somehow divided in two, because the sound of the bells does not reach you in the church from outside; instead, you find yourself, so to speak, both outside in the courtyard of the pilgrimage site and, at the same time, inside the nave of the church.

In the 2 CD set, the Svatá Hora choirmaster Pavel Šmolík leads the Schola Cantorum in singing appropriate excerpts from Gregorian plainchant. The Schola Cantorum consists of lovers of plainchant singing who devotes themselves to it as a hobby. They sing regularly in the liturgy and occasionally at concerts of sacred music as well. In this way, they are contributing towards the revival of ancient traditions. In former times, the plainchant was especially fostered at many monasteries, where all of the members took part in the singing – everyone who took part in the daily Liturgy of the Hours, everyone who wanted to praise God.

Jaroslav Tůma
 

Jaroslav Tůma is a concert organist and professor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He gives concerts playing, in addition, the harpsichord, the clavichord, the fortepiano and other keyboard musical instruments. He is heavily involved in compositional and publishing activities. He studied at the Prague Conservatory with Professor Jaroslav Vodrážka (organ) and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under Professors Milan Šlechta (organ) and Zuzana Růžičková (harpsichord). He is the winner of improvisation competitions in Nuremberg, Germany (1980) and Haarlem, the Netherlands (1986). Furthermore, he has won a number of organ competitions in interpretation: Anton Bruckner in Linz (1978), Prague Spring (1979) and Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig (1980). He regularly performs on stage both in the Czech Republic and abroad. He is often invited to international music competitions either as the president or a member of the jury. He teaches at international organ master courses and seminars. His repertoire includes the most important compositions by both Czech and world-renowned composers, with a wide range of styles, from the Renaissance to the 21st century. Jaroslav Tůma is also dedicated to organ improvisation. His discography comprises more than sixty solo CDs, for the most part released by Arta Music, since 2001. He composed the musical score for the documentary film Proměny Pražského hradu (Changes at Prague Castle) by Pavel Koutecký. He wrote two anthologies containing organ compositions on themes by Adam Václav Michna: Svaté lásky labirynth aneb Česká mariánská muzika (The Labyrinth of Sacred Love or Bohemian Marian Music) (2014) and Loutna česká (The Bohemian Lute) (2016). He is the author of the following expert publications: O interpretaci varhanní hudby s přihlédnutím k jiným klávesovým nástrojům (On Interpreting Organ Music with regard to Other Keyboard Musical Instruments) (2016), K vybraným varhanním skladbám Petra Ebena (On Selected Organ Compositions by Petr Eben) (2019), Klavichord - téměř zapomenutý nástroj (The Clavichord: A Nearly Forgotten Instrument) (2019).
 

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