The twenty-fourth season of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival came to an end after almost a month of rich musical experiences. Musical works, thematically labelled as the Concert of Nations, guided the festival visitors around thirteen picturesque Moravian towns and gave them a taste of key musical works of (not only) European nations. All this was moreover served in the interpretation of more than twenty world-famous ensembles. With the conscious transnational, cross-border concept overreaching the Czech border, the festival organizers chose the Golden Hall of the renowned Musikverein Concert House as a suitable venue for the closing evening. The extraordinary finals of the 24th season opened thus a series of Concerts of Czech-Austrian Partnership and at the same time announced the celebration of the festival's quarter of a century to be celebrated next year. In accordance with this symbolic overture of the concert, the main star of the festival was the patron of the festival and famous singer Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the no less famous Collegium 1704 orchestra led by Václav Luks.
The centrepiece of the evening was cantata. The dramaturgy went through Naples, Venice and Rome, and the artists presented tragic ancient inspirations of cantata works and the musical development of cantata itself. The programme consisted of works by Georg Friedrich Händel, Leonardo Leo, Benedetto Marcello and Leonardo Vinci. The concert was opened by Sinfonia from Handel's Agrippina. It was clear from the very first bars that the Collegium 1704 orchestra fully deserves its privileged position among the ensembles specializing in early music – absolute rhythmic unity, excellent and constantly living work with dynamics, measured but more effective decorations, and above all a clear expression idea of all the participating musicians. Václav Luks penetrated completely into the musical language not only of Händel, but also of all other composers. With grace and ease, he managed to highlight even the smallest but musically interesting moments and give them the space they deserve. It did not matter if an interesting motif in the bass sounded merely over two bars. The conductor and artistic director of the ensemble vigorously flicked his finger toward the continuo and suddenly all the space belonged to the bassoon or the double bass. In short, Luks searched for and discovered precious stones woven into the musical fabric and polished them very consciously. Most importantly, he was able to pass on this performing idea to the musicians. And that – judging from the quality of the show, which boasted almost studio recording quality – was a success. Praise is also deserved by the excellent intonation, expression and dynamics of the solo performance of violinist Ivan Iliev.
What could make this almost flawless evening even better? With the arrival of Magdalena Kožená. This mezzo-soprano singer performed in the cantatas Angelica e Medoro by Leonardo Leo, Arianna abbandonata by Benedetto Marcello and Ero e Leandro by Georg Friedrich Händel. The singer's soft but at the right moments dramatic and emotion-packed voice was excellently blending with the orchestra. The interpretative connection that the singer established with the conductor was similar to a spontaneous dance in which one perceives the other with their entire essence. The singer followed every tiny gesture of Luks' hand, which in the meantime jumped from one section to another so that the sound of the orchestra in conjunction with the singing was as organic as possible. Whether it was a long and lively coloratura, or a tender and fragile lyrical confession, the musicians and the singer were in close touch. The great means of expression that singer Magdalena Kožená enjoyed in the description of the joys and sorrows of love also deserve a great award. Even if you did not follow the text, her way of singing reflected all of the sudden happiness of a bewildered human soul fallen in love.
The final concert of the 24th season of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival was nothing more than a grandiose ending for an equally successful year. At the same time, the door was opened to a stronger musical collaboration with Austria, a country so close to us to both historically and geographically. In the years to come, we are likely to enjoy similar high-quality and artistically distinctive musical experiences. Nothing else remains but to look forward to the upcoming 25th festival season.
MAGDALENA KOŽENÁ / mezzo-soprano
VÁCLAV LUKS / artistic leader, conductor
Georg Friedrich Händel: Sinfonia "Agrippina"
Leonardo Leo: Cantata "Angelica e Medoro"
Benedetto Marcello: Cantata "Arianna abbandonata"
Leonardo Vinci: Sinfonia "Maria dolorata"
Georg Friedrich Händel: Cantata "Ero e Leandro"
Vienna, Musikverein, Golden Hall
Tuesday 25June 2019, 7 pm