On the eve of the premiere of the operatic pantomime Der Traum, which is to become a virtual culmination of the 16th season of the Znojmo Music Festival, its visitors were given the opportunity to look into the impressive but dilapidating Loucký Monastery. This peculiar place with a unique atmosphere was not chosen by chance. The above-mentioned show not only takes care of the cultural presence, but also co-finances a number of reconstructions of rundown heritage sights. For several years now, its goal has been the restoration of the Loucký Monastery, hence, just like in previous years, yesterday's concert became a suitable opportunity for a charity wine auction, the proceeds of which are designated for the repair of the devastated building. The Znojmo Chamber Orchestra, accompanied by guests of honour, violists Reinhold Rieger and Emil Machain, in the sunlit courtyard resounding with clinking glasses, presented itself with a variegated programme consisting of works by Henry Purcell, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Šimon Brixi, George Frederick Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The soprano Zuzana Barochová and the trombone player Tomáš Votava performed as soloists; the concert was conducted by violinist and music teacher Marek Filip, who is at the same time the artistic director of the ensemble.
The orchestra was established under the Primary Art School in Znojmo. Although it has become independent and now performs as an autonomous ensemble, it still continues to work closely with the Primary Art School. Nowadays, its members are mostly teachers and current and former pupils. However, people of various professions, who simply enjoy "making music", also found their place in the orchestra. An ensemble of such a format can no longer, by its very nature, compete with top professional ensembles, but it offers the necessary space for those who like to play to continue to grow in their interpretive art alongside senior and more experienced colleagues. Perspective is extremely important (not only) in this case, and all inconsistencies concerning intonation, rhythm or perhaps style must be observed from this particular point of view. All the more so, however, one will be pleased by successful dynamic changes or smooth passages, and cello solos also deserve praise.
The concert opened with Abdelazer Suite or The Moor’s Revenge by the English composer Henry Purcell. In the last year of his life, the author wrote this composition as incidental music to a tragedy of the same name written by the English playwright Aphra Behn. However, the suite continued to live despite its original designation, and although it is no longer featured too often with the play, it is still one of the composer's best-known and most popular compositions. After all, a fragment from the second movement of Abdelazer served Benjamin Britten as a motivic material for his the not any less famous composition The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Although the orchestra not always managed to maintain its rhythmic unity, the performers endeavoured to express a clear dance characterisation of the individual movements – Rondeau, Air or Minuet thus remained loyal to their dance archetypes. It was this particular composition that the orchestra did best and it is necessary to praise especially the natural changes in dynamics. Purcell's suite was followed by Pergolesi's Sinfonia in F major, with the trombonist Tomáš Votava, a student of the Brno Conservatoire in the trombone class of František Jeřábek, and at the same time the first soloist of the evening. Although Votava still has a long way to go, he cannot be denied a pleasant colour of his tone, a good sense of the flow of a melodic phrase, and he also skilfully dealt with the faster or more exposed parts. However, the very interpretation of Pergolesi's composition might be a bit more expressive in dynamics, not only towards the forte, but especially towards the piano. The trombone can achieve a particularly sweet tone, and in some of the more gentle parts, a suitably chosen piano would move Votava's successful interpretation even a little higher. In spite of that, Votava achieved more than decent dynamic diversity.
The highlight of the evening was the soprano Zuzana Barochová, in whose interpretation we heard Handel's arias Lascia ch’io pianga and Ombra mai fu (also with the recitative preceding it), Vivaldi's arias O servi volate and selected parts from Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. Barochová boasts not only a fresh and completely natural voice timbre even in extremely high or deep pitch, but also precise technique and a refined sense of expression, with which the singer enchanted the audience especially on long-sustained tones.
The particularly sustained tone in the aria Ah, Belinda from Dido and Aeneas is good proof of this. The only minor flaw in the beauty of these compositions was that where the strings sounded in unison with the vocal, the orchestra's troublesome intonation surfaced a little more. Most of the time, however, the ensemble accompanied the singer firmly and formed a compact unit with her.
Scott Joplin's ragtime The Entertainer as a cheerful encore concluded the programme of the evening, but the monastery ambiance and wine tasting called for a longer stay and enjoyment of the genius loci of the place, which needs not only more live music, but also a lot of necessary reconstruction work. And also thanks to yesterday's concert and charity auction, we are a little closer to that goal again.
Znojmo Chamber Orchestra
Marek Filip: conductor
Zuzana Barochová: soprano
Tomáš Votava: trombone
Emil Machain: viola
Reinhold Rieger: viola
- 1. A. Mozart – Divertimento in D major
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi – Sinfonia for Trombone
Henry Purcell – Overture to Dido and Aeneas
H.Purcell – Dido's aria "Ah, Belinda" from the opera Dido and Aeneas
H.Purcell – Dido's aria Lament + final chorus
A.Vivaldi – Vagante's aria "O servi volate" from the oratorio Juditha Triumphans
Šimon Brixi – Tu es deus
- 2. F. Handel – Lascia ch'io pianga
- F. Handel – Ombra mai fu
Courtyard of Loucký Monastery, Znojmo
Thursday, 23 July 2020
Znojmo Chamber Orchestra / photo from FB of the ensemble