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F10247   [8595017424724]   released 1/2020

Jaroslav T?ma: organ
built by Johann Franz Kannhäuser (1733) was restored by Marek Vorlí?ek (2019)

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685–1758)  Fantazie C dur HWV 490
P. Anton Estendorfer (1670–1711)  Aria in B (
Thomas Arne (1710–1778)  Sonáta ?. 5 B dur 
Jan Vojt?ch Maxant (1755–1838)  Menuet B dur
P. Anton Estendorfer  Ciaccona del Primo Tuono
Jan Vojt?ch Maxant  Andante D dur 
Thomas Arne  Sonáta ?. 4 d moll
Georg Friedrich Händel  Capriccio F dur
Carlo Monza (1735–1801)  Suita C dur
Josef Myslive?ek (1737–1781)  Sonáta ?. 2 G dur
Anonymus (18. stol.)  La Folia (variace) 
P. Anton Estendorfer  Galliarda in G (variace)  

Total time – 77:58

St Nicholas’s Church, about a kilometre from the centre of the town Kašperské Hory, is regarded as a rare example of Medieval sacred architecture from the early fourteenth century. The triple-nave basilica is surrounded by a cemetery with many gravestones of historical importance. Colourful frescoes, Gothic arcades, and a painted wooden ceiling dated to 1700 have been preserved inside the church. Standing separately nearby is St Anne’s Chapel in the form in which it was rebuilt in 1757, with its very non-traditional carved altar, at the bottom of which, for example, we see realistic depictions of tongues of fire and crawling snakes representing the horrors of purgatory. Today, these rare artefacts are gradually being renovated. In 2019, for example, the restoration of the organ built by Johann Franz Kannhäuser (1733) was completed. The instrument has just six stops for the manual and one for the pedal with no coupler, of course, as was usual in Bohemia for such small organs. The level of craftsmanship of J. F. Kannhäuser’s work can nearly be compared to that of the best master craftsmen of Loket and to that of Abraham Starck and Leopold Burghardt in particular, and the sound of the instrument meets the highest standards.

The organ builder Marek Vorlí?ek regards not only Kannhäuser’s organ, but also the church and its surroundings as being exceptionally beautiful, and he is certainly correct in calling the instrument an opus magnum of its kind among the artefacts from the first half of the eighteenth century. In the past, many of the organs from this period were rebuilt or otherwise destroyed, and there exists no other similarly intact organ built by Kannhäuser. According to Dr. Petr Koukal, an organologist from the National Heritage Institute of the Czech Republic, in such cases one of the most valuable aspect of old organs is its original sound, if it can be restored together with the instrument’s material substance, at least to the extent of approaching as closely as possible the instrument’s presumed original condition. In my opinion, the restoration has succeeded in doing this. There is a bit of a mystery about there being two stops in the two-foot range on such a small organ. Organs with a similar layout usually have a doubled four-foot range; besides the principal, one finds either a flauta minor or perhaps a fugara stop. At first hearing, the two two-foot stops do not sound very different from each other, but when playing period literature, the difference definitely becomes clearer and meaningful, especially in view of the acoustics in the church. There is a beautiful calligraphic inscription preserved directly on the organ itself. It documents the unusually lavish instrumentation employed in the choir loft. There was plentiful use of strings, winds (e.g. oboe, bassoon, clarinos, tenor and bass trombone), and tympani.

The repertoire of this CD is mostly cheerful, even high spirited, and some might regard this as surprising or might object that such music is inappropriate in a cemetery chapel. The opposite is the case. Apart from the fact that the organ itself tells me what I ought to play on it and what, on the other hand, the instrument does not find to be very interesting, it is also certainly true that our ancestors did not regard death as something that should be driven from thoughts. To the contrary, back then everything was oriented towards living and dying as a matter of course and was experienced by everyone collectively, because the truest, deepest joy was not to arrive until we reach paradise. One reflection of this reality from past times might be the village wind bands that still occasionally play at burials, and minor keys are not heard much in their funeral repertoire. A distant reverberation of such a world, I think, is found for example in the little composition by Maxant, a native of nearby Frymburk. Otherwise, of course, the programme includes compositions of various genres, often using the principle of variation form. These take the shape of either a pure set of variations (La Folia – anonymous variations on a Spanish melody that spread around the world like a popular “hit”) or a passacaglia (Anton Estendorfer came from Deggendorf, Bavaria, where he served as a priest; all of Estendorfer’s sets of variations date from the time of his studies before 1695). Although the world was less interconnected centuries ago than it is today, we can observe the remarkable sharing of inspiration between very remote regions, often thanks to the cultural exchanges fostered in particular among various monastic societies. Therefore, even music from faraway England (Thomas Arne) or Italy (Carlo Ignazio Monza, whose striking melodies were borrowed by Igor Stravinsky for his ballet Pulcinella) need not seem out of place in Bohemia or Germany.

Having fallen into severe disrepair in the course of many decades, the organ of the local church recently underwent restoration that one may regard as virtually miraculous. Thanks to the support of a private donor and of the state, the renovation was performed by a firm based near Domažlice, owned by the aforementioned organ builder and choirmaster Marek Vorlí?ek. Mr. Vorlí?ek’s workshop has a number of important restoration projects to its credit, mostly of Baroque instruments such as renovation of the Guth organs in B?lá, Mo?idlec, and Hlohová and of the Schmidt organ in Bochov. In cooperation with the firms Dlabal-Mettler and Dalibor Michek, Marek Vorlí?ek also restored the magnificent organ built by Jan David Sieber (1705) at the Deanery Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Polná. 

Jaroslav T?ma

Jaroslav T?ma is a concert organist and a professor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He also performs on the harpsichord, clavichord, piano, and other keyboard instruments and devotes himself to composing and publication. He is a graduate of the Prague Conservatory under Prof. Jaroslav Vodrážka and of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under Prof. Milan Šlechta (organ) and Prof. Zuzana R?ži?ková (harpsichord). He won first prizes in organ improvisation competitions in Nuremberg in 1980 and in Haarlem (Netherlands) in 1986 and is a laureate of a number of organ competitions, including Linz in 1978, the Prague Spring competition in 1979, the Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig in 1980, and many others.

He performs regularly at festivals including Prague Spring, Smetana’s Litomyšl, the Janá?ek May Festival in Ostrava, and on other prestigious Czech stages. He has given concerts in nearly all of the countries of Europe as well as in the USA, Canada, Cuba, Japan, Mongolia, South Africa, Singapore, and elsewhere. He often serves as a jury member or chairman at international music competitions, and he teaches at international organ courses and seminars.
T?ma’s repertoire includes major works by composers from his own country and from around the world, covering a broad range of styles from the Renaissance through the twenty-first century. His discography includes more than fifty solo titles. He has a series of CDs titled “Historic Organs of Bohemia” on the Supraphon label, capturing the authentic sound of rare organs from various epochs, from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. On the Arta Records label, he has recorded not only important works by Bach (Well-Tempered Clavier, Goldberg Variations, Orgelbüchlein, toccatas, preludes, and fugues), but also, for example, Thirty-Six Fugues for Piano by Antonín Rejcha, Eclogues by Václav Jan Tomášek, the organ sonatas of Paul Hindemith, and several CDs of organ improvisations, the most recent of which, titled Má vlast (My Country), consists of improvisations on themes by Bed?ich Smetana. For Czech Radio, he has made not only many organ recordings, but also complete recorded sets of the twenty-nine piano sonatas by Jan Ladislav Dusík and of the Leipzig chorales of J. S. Bach. He is also involved with collective improvisation. In 2015–2017, for example, he realized 
a series of musical dance performances titled Der Erwählte (The Holy Sinner) or Gregory on the Rock, with the novel by Thomas Mann as the source of inspiration for five musicians, a narrator, and dancers.

Jaroslav T?ma has composed, among other things, music for Pavel Koutecký’s documentary films Prague Castle through the Ages and two collections of organ works based on themes by Adam Václav Michna (Labyrinth of the Holy Love or Czech Marian Music, 2014 and The Czech Lute, 2016), and he is the author of a scholarly publication titled O interpretaci varhanní hudby s p?ihlédnutím k jiným klávesovým nástroj?m (On the Interpretation of Organ Music with Consideration of Other Keyboard Instruments, 2016).

© Studio Svengali, September 2021
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