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HISTORICAL ORGAN IN BOCHOV, Carlsbad region, West Bohemia
Michaela Káčerková


F10263   [8595017426322]   released 10/2021

Georg Muffat: Toccata Settima
Johann Caspar Kerll: Passacaglia D minor
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer: Suite Euterpe (Musicalischer Parnassus)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita E minor BWV 770 "Ach, was soll ich Suender machen"
Johann Jacob Froberger: Fantasia I sopra Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer: Ricercari (Ariadne Musica)

Organ by Johann Georg Ignatz Schmidt, 1780.

Georg Muffat (1653-1704), a native of the Duchy of Savoy, wandered between Europe’s musical centres all his life. He studied in Paris, lived in Alsace, Ingolstadt, and Vienna, and stayed temporarily in Prague. After that, he served in Salzburg at the court of Archbishop von Künburg and from 1690 until his death in Passau at the court of Bishop-Cardinal von Lamberg. He also appeared in Kroměříž for some time, where he applied for a position with the ensemble of Bishop Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, where Pavel Josef Vejvanovský was working at the time, but Muffat did not succeed. He was primarily an organist, and we get valuable information about musical events of the period from his notes from study visits to Italy, where he wanted to perfect his art in the 1680s by studying with Bernardo Pasquini, an organist at churches in Rome who served the Borghese family. Muffat’s legacy as a composer mainly consists of instrumental sonatas, organ toccatas, orchestral suites, and concerti grossi. His style is a typical cosmopolitan mixture of German, Italian, and French stimuli, i.e. contrapuntal artistry, striking melodies, and lavish ornamentation. His Apparatus Musico-Organisticus (1690) is by far the largest collection of organ compositions that was available at that time in the region of southern Germany. It contains 12 toccatas and a few other occasional pieces.

Johann Caspar Kerll (1627-1693), a musician from Saxony, was one of the most distinguished composers and pedagogues of his day. He worked in Vienna, where he had studied, and later in Brussels and Munich. His pupils included Agostino Steffani and apparently Johann Pachelbel and Johann Joseph Fux as well. His influence can be heard in the music of Bach and Handel—both of those masters of the High Baroque also arranged music by their predecessor. In Kerll’s lifetime, a number of his sacred works appeared in print, but most of his operas and many other sacred compositions were not preserved. His surviving works exhibit supreme mastery of counterpoint and of the Italian concertante style. They show clear influence of older masters—Heinrich Schütz in vocal genres and Girolamo Frescobaldi and Johann Jacob Froberger in writing for keyboard instruments. Two of Kerll’s compositions that are very popular today are programmatic. One bears the title Battaglia and uses fanfare motifs to depict the turmoil of the battlefield. A second, which imitates a cuckoo, is titled Capriccio sopra il Cucu. Most of his keyboard works can be played on either harpsichord or organ. This is the case with the Passacaglia in D Minor, a variation form based on a repeated descending bass ostinato.

Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656-1746), a native of Krásno (formerly Schönfeld) in the Cheb region, was employed by the nobility in Ostrov nad Ohří (formerly Schlackenwerth) from the 1680s. Before that, he had studied at a Piarist grammar school. He then spent the second part of his life from 1715 until his death in Rastatt in the Baden region. The town in the western part of present-day Germany was a residence of the margraves of Baden-Baden, who had gained a relationship with the Ostrov nobility in 1690 by the marriage of Ludwig Wilhelm to a princess of the Saxe-Lauenburg family that owned the Ostrov domain. Fischer, a violinist and player of keyboard instruments, was the court Kapellmeister in Ostrov and later in Rastatt. His legacy as a composer has been preserved only partially, but from what exists, it is clear that among the things he brought to the repertoire of the German-speaking part of Europe were French influences as represented in particular by the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. Fischer’s smaller sacred works written to Latin texts of the Catholic liturgy are also being rediscovered and revived, but it is his music for keyboard instruments that is really of the greatest importance. The collection Musicalischer Parnassus, published in 1700 in Augsburg, contains nine dance suites, each of which symbolically bears the name of one of the nine Muses. In Greek mythology, these were daughters of the god Zeus, to each of whom was assigned a field of the arts. To Euterpe, a girl with a flute whose name means “Rejoicing”, belongs the realm of music and lyric poetry. Fischer’s cycle Ariadne Musica (1702) consists of preludes and fugues in 20 different keys. There are also five ricercars based on the imitative handling of chorale melodies, each referring to a particular part of the liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and finally Pentecost.   

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), was a composer and a performer, and he was also acknowledged as a leading expert on the design and quality of organs. He was successively employed at several places in central Germany. He worked as an organist in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen, as an organist and later as concertmaster at the ducal court in Weimar, as the court Kapellmeister in Köthen, then for nearly the last 30 years of his life in Leipzig as the cantor at the St Thomas School, a church institution at the Lutheran St Thomas’s Church. He was also responsible for musical activities at other churches in the city. His adversaries regarded his style as bombastic and confused, but today it is clear that the grandeur of Bach’s polyphony, the complexity of his harmony, and his imaginative, original approach to complex forms are worthy of admiration. His music, the culmination of Europe’s Baroque style, captivates us with it lofty beauty and conspicuous order. His organ works exhibit perfectly idiomatic writing and virtuosity, while his cantatas and oratorios written to German texts on theological subjects are astoundingly profound and timeless. The Partita in E Minor “Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen” (O what should I, a sinner, do?), a composition from the very beginning of the 18th century, consists of nine variations on the melody of a sacred song of penitence by the Protestant clergyman, poet, and composer Johann Flittner, and there is also a four-part vocal arrangement among the chorale harmonisations in Bach’s legacy. It was apparently while working in Arnstadt that Bach composed this work, which bears a resemblance to chorale variations by Georg Böhm, an organist in the north-German city Lüneburg where Bach had been studying a few years earlier.  

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667) was the son of a prominent musician who was the court Kapellmeister in Stuttgart. His musical thinking was influenced by a variety of national preferences and peculiarities because in that region there were active musicians from every corner of Europe including England. Froberger thus created toccatas in the style Frescobaldi and Rossi with an alternation between passages of free improvisation and sections with stricter counterpoint. He wrote more conservative canzonas, capriccios, and partitas, and he also penned the first examples of suites compiled from individual dances; compared with French models, his innovation is the maintaining of continuity by the use of a single key. In his day he was seen as a very influential composer. He travelled around Italy, appeared in Paris, worked as the court organist in Vienna… He wrote a number of vocal works, but we still view him mainly as a composer of music for keyboard instruments, which are often highly expressive and in many cases programmatic. Again in many cases, his works can be played either on the harpsichord or on the organ. As its theme, the Fantasia sopra Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La uses the first six notes of the scale.

The Church of St Michael the Archangel in Bochov (originally Buchau) is 15 kilometres southeast of Karlovy Vary and is of late Gothic origin. It successively underwent renovations in the Renaissance and early Baroque styles, then finally in 1744 it was rebuilt as a Baroque church. When the German-speaking population was expelled after the Second World War, the church gradually fell into disrepair, although it was listed as a state cultural landmark in 1958. It did not undergo overall renovation until from 1999 to 2002.

The organ constructed in 1780 in Buchau at the cost of 900 guilders by the organ builder Johann Georg Ignatz Schmidt is in the character of the late Baroque with a broad, lavishly carved bilateral façade in the form of a towering temple. The principal ranks are also decorated with carved motifs. The instrument has two manuals with 16 registers, mechanical tracker action, and a slider chest design. In 1856 Joseph Müller performed major repairs on the instrument. In the spring of 1947, restoration by the St. Havlík company involved cleaning, repairs, coating to prevent woodworm damage, and tuning. In the 1990s, the organ received new bellows and a ventilator, then from 2015 to 2019 it underwent overall restoration by the company Varhanářství Vorlíček. With the goal of recapturing the instrument’s original sound, the organ was completely restored to its original form as built by Schmidt with the retaining of the tone valves as extended by Müller. During the work, only material that truly could not be salvaged was replaced with new parts. About a tenth of the pipes had to be newly made based on the preserved ones. The manuals are new replicas of Schmidt’s originals. The company also made new wedge-shaped bellows in period style, with which it installed a quiet electric ventilator. On this occasion, the carvings and polychrome designs on the organ cabinet were restored.

Petr Veber, September 2021

The third album of the loosely connected cycle of recordings surveying interesting organs in the region was recorded by Michaela Káčerková in Bochov in 2021. She has been interested in older preserved instruments since her student days. Already then she was taking trips to play on little-known gems, and she enjoyed confrontations with various types of instruments and looking for possible approaches to playing that differ for every organ. She also enjoyed expanding her repertoire and discovering the new, seldom-played works to which the period instruments led her. She performs both as an organist and a harpsichordist. Since 2014, besides engaging in concert activity of her own, she is also the founder, dramaturge, and director of the J. C. F. Fischer International Music Festival. The festival is named for a Baroque composer, Bach’s older contemporary, who came from Krásno (formerly Schönfeld) in the Cheb region. Michaela Káčerková studied organ at the Prague Conservatoire in the studio of Jan Hora and at the Academy of Performing Arts under Jaroslav Tůma. After graduating, she continued her studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig. In 2021 she became the executive director of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra.

The series Historic Organs of the Karlovy Vary Region (Historické varhany Karlovarského kraje) contains a growing number of CD recordings of rare instruments in the region that have been preserved without major changes to the original character of their sound, but that are not already plentifully represented on recordings. The first recording issued in 2019 features the organ at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul in Karlovy Vary, a romantic instrument built in the 19th century for spa guests of the Protestant faith and today belonging to the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. The CD includes music by Max Reger, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Joseph Bonnet, Louis James Alfred Lefébur-Wély, Bedřich Antonín Wiedermann, Bedřich Janáček, František Musil, and Bohuslav Martinů. The second recording was made in 2020 on an instrument built in 1875 at the Church of St Joachim in Jáchymov—today a Catholic church, but built in the 16th century as the first Lutheran church in the Czech lands. On it, we hear works by Joseph Renner, Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Otomar Kvěch, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Franz Liszt. In connection with the recording project, there are concerts and fundraisers for the maintenance and restoration of rare instruments in the region below the Ore Mountains. 



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