For two consecutive Saturdays, visitors to the Olomoucké barokní slavnosti (Olomouc Baroque Festival) had the opportunity to listen to works by lesser-known composers whose music not only in many respects far surpassed the standard of the time, but whose fates were also closely linked to Olomouc.
The first of the mentioned and reviewed concerts took place on 28 August in the festive hall of Klášterní Hradisko and featured Musica figuralis under the direction of Marek Čermák. The programme involved works by Joseph Puschmann, a Moravian composer and from 1777 a chapel master of the Olomouc cathedral. However, it would be a mistake to think that this was only a local compositional talent. Puschmann’s compositions can be found in many European music collections, and even before he accepted service at the cathedral, he worked in the service of Baron Skrbenský in Hošťálkovy or as a chapel master of Ignác Dominik Chorynský, the Silesian Governor in Opava.
The festival concert focused on Puschmann’s secular works. His Symphony in C minor, Violin Concerto in G major and Symphony in E flat major were performed. The first piece of the evening, Symphony in C minor, represents the only known minor symphony by the composer so far. It is remarkable, among other things, for its sudden melodic dynamic, rhythmic and expressive contrasts. The dark and brooding musical motif here can be transformed in an instant into an energetic and stirring musical surface with an almost jubilant character. Not only the composer, but especially the performers were able to work with these contrasts skilfully. The ensemble, led by Marek Čermák, moved between heated dynamics with thrilling precision and clear musical intent. The brass section, led by the horns, also deserves great praise, whose final “notches” perfectly underlined, for example, the natural gradation of the first movement. However, Puschmann’s music is not only energetic and dramatic; indeed, the composer also gives a great deal of space to lyrical moods, as can be seen, for example, in the second movement of the Symphony in C minor, or even more so in his Violin Concerto in G major. The violinist Martyna Pastuzska also performed in this piece with the ensemble Musica figuralis. Puschmann’s concerto makes extensive use of so-called artificial string harmonic techniques (artificial flageolets), from which he builds tender and almost pastoral surfaces. What I personally appreciate most about Puschmann’s work, however, is his sense of phrase construction, and especially his treatment of the soloist since the artist is not relegated to a mere virtuosic element (although it is true that the time of empty virtuosity was yet to come); the opposite is true – often, the soloist delivers seemingly simple musical phrases that gradually develop into melodic, rhythmic and expressive richness. The soloist completed her task excellently. The fragile motifs in pianissimo dynamics were “fluffy” and played with a “light hand”, while in the more escalated parts the artist was not afraid to take a step towards to a much harsher musical expression. The evening closed with the equally successful Symphony in G major, cleverly chosen, by the artistic director, to end the programme – its fast pace, exultant character and at times thrilling drama were the ideal endings to what was a successful concert.
The second Saturday in a row – 4 September 2021 – took festival visitors to the Church of Our Lady Helper of Christians. Here, in the staging of the ensemble Societas Incognitorum under the artistic direction of Eduard Tomaštík, Philipp Jakob Rittler’s Missa Carolina was re-instated at the world level. This Baroque composer has only recently received the deserved attention of both the professional public and performers. Until now, his chamber works have rather been known, so Missa Carolina represents a new milestone in our knowledge of Rittler’s compositional production. In addition to the instrumentalists, the soloists Kateřina Šujanová (soprano), Yvetta Fendrichová (soprano), Monika Jägerová (alto), Ondřej Múčka (tenor) and Jaromír Nosek (bass) performed.
The mass opened with a prelude (intrada) in the form of Sonata à 3, in which violinist Elen Machová and clarion player Petr Jurášek shone from the very beginning of the evening. After all, the brass section, which was well represented in the work, deserves great praise. Although at the beginning of the mass (after the chorale) the connection between the brass section and the rest of the orchestra was not entirely persuasive, very soon all rhythmic and intonation impurities disappeared. Ondřej Múčka gave an excellent rendition of the chorale, followed immediately by the Kyrie and Gloria. Rittler’s music is deep and serious in thought, yet full of joy – serious polyphonic work combines with melodic invention, and the richness of the instrumentation ensures a sound full of brilliance. The Graduale also featured Giovanni Legrenzi’s Sonata la Pia with a distressing ascending chromaticism at the end of the first part and also Georg Muffat’s Ciacona in g for organ, performed by Marek Čermák.
The singers also gave excellent achievements – especially the alto singer Monika Jägerová impressed with her beautiful voice and sensitive performance. Tenor Ondřej Múčka also dazzled with his excellent phrasing and work with the colour of his voice. Jaromír Nosek’s clear and solid bass was also a pleasure. However, the sopranos were a bit disjointed in the places they shared. While each of them could boast of a good staging and a nice colour of voice, in the joint parts it was as if the colours of the voices of both singers went against each other. However, it was certainly not a fundamental flaw and I believe that there are those in the audience who, on the contrary, enjoyed the harmony of the sopranos. Mention should also be made of the parts, in which Rittler’s music achieved a particular brilliance and dramatic effect.
Saturday’s concerts of the Olomouc Baroque Festival featured music – rendered by two different ensembles – of not yet well-known, but undoubtedly remarkable composers whose work could (and indeed should!) be a welcome enrichment of other music programmes and festivals. In the face of the undeniable quality of the compositions by Philipp Jakob Rittler and Joseph Puschmann, it seems almost unthinkable that such music should once again fall into oblivion.
Tribute to Joseph Puschmann – 28 August 2021
Martyna Pastuzska – soloist, violin
Marek Čermák – artistic director
Oboe players: Małgorzata Kluźniak, Petra Karpíšková
Bassoon: Petr Budín
Horns players: Rudolf Linner, Juraj Ofúkaný
Clarion players: Petr Jurášek, Karel Beránek
Violin players: Martyna Pastuszka, Aleksandra Radwańska,
Bartłomiej Fraś, Dominika Małecka,
Antonina Krzyżowska, Vojtěch Zajíc
Viola: Martin Stupka
Cello: Petr Mašlaň
Violone: Ján Krigovský
Timpani: Lukáš Krejčí
Harpsichord: Marek Čermák
Joseph Puschmann (1738–1794)
Symphony in C minor
Violin Concerto in G major
Symphony in E flat major
Missa Carolina – 4 September 2021
Praeludium: PJ Rittler (1639? – 1690) – Sonata à 3
Introitus: Statuit ei Dominus (Chorale)
Kyrie, Gloria: PJ Rittler – Missa Carolina
Graduale: Giovanni Legrenzi (1626–1690) – Sonata la Pia à 2
Credo: PJ Rittler – Missa Carolina
Ofertorium: Georg Muffat (1653–1704) – Ciacona in g (organo solo)
Sanctus: PJ Rittler – Missa Carolina
Communio: Fidelis servus (Chorale)
Agnus Dei, Dona nobis: PJ Rittler – Missa Carolina
Kateřina Šujanová – soprano
Yvetta Fendrichová – soprano
Monika Jägerová – alto
Ondřej Múčka – tenor
Jaromír Nosek – bass
Aneta Podracká Bendová – soprano
Linda Nepivodová – soprano
Tamara Kubandová – alto
Ivan Nepivoda – tenor
Martin Šujan – bass
Clarion players: Petr Jurášek, Jaroslav Kocůrek
Cornett: Richard Šeda, Barbora Mišoňová
Trombone players: Ondřej Sokol, Stanislav Penk, Pavel Novotný
Violin players Elen Machová, Eva Kalová
Viola: Veronika Svačinová, Braňo Larich, František Kuncl
Positive organ Marek Čermák
Cello: Dalibor Pimek
Violone: Lukáš Verner