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Josef Antonín Plánický (1691 - 1732): Opella ecclesiastica
Musica Bohemica, Jaroslav Krček

F1 0045  [8595017404528]
TT- 76:02,  released 12/1993, remaster reissue 2006

This collection of twelve spiritual cantatas, called Opella ecclesiastica, was published in Augsburg in 1723. It is the only extant work of the Czech Baroque composer, who, owing to the mature form of these arias, is considered to have had a musical language comparable to that of composers as great as Bach and Haendel.

    1. DE AMORE ERGA DEUM (soprano)   6:04
      Sonata, Recitativo, Aria - Allegro 
    2. DE COMMUNIONE (soprano)   7:28
      Recitativo, Aria - Tarde et affectuose
    3. DE CONFESSORE (alto)   5:10
      Recitativo Aria - Vivace
    4. DE TEMPORE (bass)   7:34
      Sonata, Recitativo, Aria - Vivace
    5. DE VENERABILI SACRAMENTO (soprano)   7:17
      Sonata, Recitativo, Aria - Tarde e con affetto
    6. DE TEMPORE (soprano)   5:06
      Recitativo, Aria - Andante
    7. DE SS.MARTYRIBUS (alto)   5:40
      Recitativo, Aria - Vivace
    8. DE OMNI TEMPORE (bass)   4:54
      Recitativo, Aria - Presto assai
    9. DE BEATA VIRGINE MARIA (soprano)   5:47
      Sonata, Recitativo, Aria - Andante
    10. DE VIRGINE ET MARTYRE (alto)   6:02
      Recitativo, Aria - Allegro
    11. DE SACRATISSIMA EUCHARISTIA (soprano)   5:19
      Sonatella, Recitativo, Aria - Andante
    12. FUNEBRIS (soprano)   9:37
      Sonata, Recitativo, Aria - Tarde

MUSICA BOHEMICA, conducted by Jaroslav Krček
soprano Ludmila Vernerová-Nováková
alto Marta Beňačková
bass Zdeněk Harvánek

violin Tomáš Prosek, Blanka Mráčková, Jiří Fišer, Jan Marek, Rita Čerpučenková, Jitka Adamusová
viola Jiří Rajniš, Jaroslava Smolová
violoncello Tomáš Nývlt
double-bass Jiří Rohan
oboe Gabriela Krčková
bassoon Jindřich Koman
harpsichord, organ positive Judit Izsak-Macečková, Jaroslav Krček

It was two years after the Battle of the White Mountain when the Lazansky family, who were to do so much for the cultural history of the town, came to Manetin in western Bohemia. Vaclav Josef Lazansky and his wife Marie Gabriela, a Cernin from Chudenice, had the principal buildings in the town rebuilt after the fire of 1712; these included the church. The greatest artists of the time were called upon to beautify them, among them Peter Brandl. Music was cultivated in the Count´s family, and Marie Gabriela was herself an accomplished performer on the harpsichord, as well as a singer. In the Cistercian monastery at nearby Plasy there was the music scholar Mauritius Vogt, who with the Benedictine composer from Prague, Gunther Jacob, was a frequent visitor at the Manetin manor house. At this time the local literary society became active again, and practised figured chorales in the choir of the deanery church. All these factors combined to create the cultural atmosphere of the provincial toen, and were formative influences on the musical sensibility of the Manetin pedagogues.
Josef Antonin Planicky (1691-1732) came of just such a family. He seems to have been the son of the organist-teacher Jaroslav Planicky, who probably gave him his earliest musical education, but we have little knowledge even of the rest of his life. We do know that he was proficient in Latin, which suggests that he had attended a Jesuit seminary. He thus found his way to Manetin, where he became tutor in the Count´s family, in 1715. Five years later he asked to be released from this appointment, and from his Foreword to the Opella ecclesiastica (our only source) it appears that he spent two years broadening his musical experience in Bohemia, Moravia and Austria.
The next news of him dates from 1720, when he settled in Freising in Upper Bavaria, with his family. Here he was befriended by Canon Phillip Franz Lindmayer, who obtained the post of tenor for him, in the choir of the bishop´s chapel. The only documents relating to this period of his life are several requests for higher wages and an official allocation of wine, justified (in the composer´s view) by the high cost of living and his need for inspiration. It must be said that the bishop´s office usually consented to his demands. We know, too, that it was here that he composed his book of spiritual arias, and that he was commissioned to write an opera in celebration of the millennium of the diocese. The opera was produced in 1724, but the score has been lost, along with Planicky´s later compositions. These included litanies, a Te Deum, a Requiem, motets, and the fashionable “musica navalis“ for boating excursions on the river in Prague. Today we possess only one of his works, the collection of twelve spiritual arias, Opella ecclesiastica, printed in 1723 by Johann Jakob Lotter of Augsburg.
The volume comprises seven arias for soprano, three for contralto, and two for bass, accompanied by the organ or harpsichord, two violins, cello or viola, and solo violin or oboe. The remarkable thing about the arias is that there is not a single one for tenor voice, although that was the part the composer himself had been engaged to sing in the bishop´s chapel. The one-movement arias are composed in the three-part Da capo form - A B A, the third part being a repetition of the first as in operatic arias. The vocal melody is written in an attractive coloratura style. The instrumental introduction, if used, is either closely or very freely associated with the aria itself. The composer used the word „sonata“ to describe them. The original contribution of Plánický lies in the passages of recitative to the accompaniment of the organ or harpsichord, taken up by the more complex instrumentation of the aria. A similar effect was achieved in the early years of the eighteenth century by Josef Leopold Vaclav Dukat, but in a much less mature form. Planicky´s harmonies, too, surprise us with unexpected chord effects and even exciting dissonance. It is no accident that compared the composer, in this respect, to such great figures as Bach and Haendel.
Planicky´s arias have appeared occasionally in concert programmes or on records, but this recording is the first to present his work as a complete whole. The composer and conductor Jaroslav Krcek undertook to record the arias with his ensemble, Musica Bohemica, foremost among interpreters of Czech baroque music. Basing himself first on Trolda´s edition, and then on Jiri Sehnal´s (MAB, Editio Supraphon 1988), Krcek respects the intimate character of the arias, the composer´s contrasting of solo and tutti, alternating violin and oboe sensitively; where Planicky is not clear in ascribing parts to “bassetto“ and “fagotto”, Krcek relies on the total sound effect. Baroque composers were accustomed to leave considerable freedom of interpretation in ornamentation of the melody, and Planicky is no exception. Jaroslav Krcek is sensitive and profoundly immersed in baroque musical thought. Here and there he has corrected obvious errors in transcription, and departed from Sehnal´s edition in paying much greater attention to the continuo part as accompaniment.
This collection of spiritual arias by Josef Antonin Planicky is thus presented to you in the accomplished and vivid performance of an ensemble which is Czech in more than name.

Jindřich Pecka

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