New Year's Day falls at the end of August in Utrecht! We gather, we drink, we kiss, we wish each other well at the opening concert of the Festival of Early Music, now in its 33rd year. Literally a generation of early music lovers have now descended yearly on Utrecht, an elegant, historic and stately university city just down the tracks a bit from the bustling and obvious tourist destination, Amsterdam.
Last evening's concert was especially celebratory as it was held in the festival's birthplace, architect Herman Hertzberger's famed concert hall, recently reopened after a gruelling eight years of city planners scratching their heads, renovators juggling building codes and politicians searching for auxiliary funding. And just like Alice when she tumbled down the hole, we walked back into the future through glass doors that separate the new TivoliVredenburg concert complex from the old large hall itself, carefully closed and preserved from demolition amidst construction work.
This year's festival theme, royal with a hint of historic war, is dedicated to the Habsburg Empire: ten centuries of music from Vienna and Prague. One of the Artists in Residence is Václav Luks, a young conductor and ensemble founder of Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 from Bohemia. His passion for the unsung heroes of his region is already legend and last evening he quite launched himself up the stairs to the stage to grasp his programme of Fux, Tůma and Zelenka by the horns. A Te Deum followed by a Stabat Mater and a Mass was not only royal, it was a heavenly blessing for this new year.
Luks leads a lovely group: all its individuals are very good at what they do; theirs is a consistent quality. Special mention must be made however of the elegant soprano solo, Hana Blažíková as well as of the crystal clear and confident brass instrumentalists.
Beautiful and enriching repertoire, a festive occasion and a truly enthusiastic audience. All that was missing last evening was a bit of urgency and panache in the performance. Dissonances were never wrenching; fugues were a tad vertical and staid. Even in Jan Dismas Zelenka's now beloved bustling business – another relatively recent discovery of the authentic performance practice community – Collegium 1704 and their choir consorts sounded slightly run of the mill, all this despite a nearly acrobatic Luks who poured his entire body into his direction. Having said that, his ensemble's potential is a clear given. Adding a bit more bravura to the hard work and impassioned sense of discovery that Luks and co exude would quickly do the trick.
The early music festival year lasts a mere ten days. Yet with some new repertoire, a soothing return to home base and a creative programme of beautiful repertoire, we can already safely conclude that it will be a very Happy New Year.
Source: Von Cynthia Wilson, August 30, 2014 (bachtrack.com)
Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
♪ Missa Divi Xaverii, ZWV 12 (1729)
Hana Blažíková, soprano
Kamila Mazalová, mezzo-soprano
Václav Čížek, tenor
Marián Krejčik, bass
Collegium 1704 & Collegium Vocale 1704
Conductor: Václav Luks
Part II of the Opening Concert of Utrecht Early Music Festival, August 29, 2014
The Missa Divi Xaverii, ZWV 12, an expansive and unusually richly scored work, marks a highlight in the oeuvre of Jan Dismas Zelenka. It was composed in 1729 while he was working at the Dresden court.
The principal source of this first edition is the damaged autograph score which had long been kept under lock and key. Passages missing because of its damaged condition have been supplemented using secondary sources or reconstructed by Václav Luks, clearly marked as such in the musical text.
The first performance to use the present new edition took place in the summer of 2014, when it was performed at the Utrecht Early Music Festival. A CD recording by Collegium 1704, conducted by Václav Luks, has been released by the label Accent.
Johann Joseph Fux: Te Deum | František Ignác Antonín Tůma: Stabat Mater – Hana Blažíková, Kamila Mazalová, Václav Čížek, Marián Krejčik, Collegium 1704, Collegium Vocale 1704, Václav Luks (HD 1080p)
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice – A film by Ondřej Havelka – Bejun Mehta, Eva Liebau, Regula Mühlemann – Václav Luks
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Missa Votiva in E minor – Collegium 1704, Collegium Vocale 1704, Václav Luks (HD 1080p)