March, 11 a.m.
- Hall: Main Auditorium
Elegance and Czech emotion for a Messiah
Händel’s Messiah was composed in 1741. Traditionally associated with Christmas celebrations, it is one of those oratorios we never tire of, especially if it is performed by specialists such as the Collegium 1704. This Czech orchestra was founded in 2005 in Prague by the harpsichordist Václav Luks. Since then, this excellent ensemble has become one of the most sought after European Baroque orchestras with appearances at the Salzburg Festival or the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, among other festivals and institutions.
The oratorio with a libretto by Charles Jennens, a devout Anglican, was first heard in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The response was lukewarm as the piece was a departure from the Italian influence in the composer’s earlier works and drew its references from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Composed in about 3 weeks -Stefan Zweig narrated the setbacks of its writing believing Messiah was a healing process for Händel’s maladies caused by a stroke years before- at such a speed there are blots or stains on the original score of 259 pages. Händel envisioned his work for a modest ensemble, but at the end of the 18th century, the tendency was gigantic size performances with a chorus of up to 2.000 singers and an orchestra of 500 musicians. This approach contributed to the fame and solemnity of the work but also buried it as massively weighty music. In the second half of the 20th century, it was rescued by the Historically Informed Performance (HIP) movement that reclaimed the transparency and gentleness of its 53 movements, such as the popular And the glory of the Lord…, O thou that tellest Good Tidings to Zion or For unto Us a Child is Born, among many others. Then, there is the very famous Hallelujah chorus: Tradition has it when King George II heard it for the first time in 1743 in London’s Covent Garden, the monarch was so moved, he stood up. Following protocol, the rest of the audience rose to their feet. Today, this practice is upheld among English-speaking audiences and is a metaphor of recognition of the genius of a composer who took choral music to brilliant heights.
- Musical director: Václav Luks
Collegium Vocale 1704
In collaboration with Festival de Música Antigua de Sevilla (FeMÀS)
The harpsichordist and conductor Václav Luks founded the Prague baroque orchestra Collegium 1704 and vocal ensemble Collegium Vocale 1704 in Prague (2005). Since then, they have collaborated with world-famous soloists.
Considered one of today’s most acclaimed orchestra conductors in Baroque music, he is regularly invited to the renowned European halls and theatre as well as to important festivals.