Following the concerts streamed online in January and complete with a series of innovative video trailers, The Czech Ensemble Baroque returned with live streaming yesterday night. This time it was the second concert from their series entitled Bach & Mozart in Focus (Czech: Bacha na Mozarta); it was planned for 21 October, but rescheduled. From the Brothers of Mercy Convent, it featured, as the central part of the performance, the psalm of Dixit Dominus by Georg Friedrich Händel.
The concert was opened by a fifteen-member choir accompanied by a positive organ performing the festive anthem I was Glad by Henry Purcell, composed to celebrate the coronation of James II. Even in this opening composition, all the singers were clearly in a joyful and strong mood that remained with them all throughout the programme.
After this four-minute choral composition, a familiar duet appeared in front of the camera. Showing a crisp sense of humour, “Bach’s” and “Mozart’s” debate on women behind the conductor’s stand eventually led to the dramatic departure of choirmaster Tereza Válková and the choir from the stage. As a result, Arcangello Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major followed; the individual parts, each distinctive in nature, as well as each of the reliable transitions of tempo within the entire instrumental ensemble, were all conducted by concert master Dagmar Valentová with confidence. Along with violinist Michael Klas, she also powerfully rendered any solo parts.
The time for those performing to get ready for the central item of the programme was filled with another appearance of the two “composers” giving the audience a closer presentation of the creation of the charming cantata Dixit Dominus composed on the wording of Psalm 110 and originating from the “Italian” period of the then very young, 22-year-old Händel, the performance of which was to follow. The composer was inspired by Corelli’s work preceding this cantata, through the virtuoso nature of the strings as well as the high demands on the singers, whose parts were described as a prime chorus exhibition by “Bach” in his dialogue with “Mozart”.
With Roman Válek as conductor, the first tones of the work were heard, where the musicians mastered both the swift and challenging sections and the characteristic contrasting part with class and determination. The room’s vaulted space supported and boosted the voice and intonation confidence of the choir as a whole, especially the higher soprano levels. Despite the predominance of the female part, the gentlemen were able to line up and assist the decorative soprano and alto parts. The solo parts, too, were far from lowering the standard set so high; these were mastered, at deep as well as high levels or in long cadences, by Lucie Netušilová Karafiátová along with the soprano singers Roman Kružíková and Pavla Radostová, whether it was stand-alone solo parts or the deeply felt and melancholic duet. Other minor, but high-quality solos were also heard from within the choir, whether rendered by Jakub Kubín, Jan Kožnar or Jiří Miroslav Procházka. The whole work of art was accompanied by a clear interplay of all the performers, even in the most extreme and challenging parts, as well as smooth and gentle attacca changes between the tempo and the nature of each of the parts.
But how would the irresistible tones of Baroque reach the audience without cutting-edge technical services and delivery? As it has already done several times in the past, Operachot – a company managed by director Jakub Kořínek assumed this role with success, along with his extensive team, allowing the audience to watch this live concert through innovative camera footage, which in some cases even showed the behind the scenes of the event. While sub-titles were available and welcome for Purcell’s opening work, unfortunately, they were missing from the Händel’s cantata.
Yet the positive energy, much-needed today, certainly went beyond the limits of TV screens and filled many homes with joy and high-quality music. The singers and the musicians kept it together after the forced period of rest, making their performance shine through both online and in real space. It was the warm and friendly atmosphere radiating from the way the performers acted and interacted which underlined and highlighted the entire performance of yesterday.