Sancte Wenceslae, ora pro nobis! The cult of St. Wenceslas in music.
Wenceslas--it is a name borne by many famous men in Czech history right up, but in the case of the most famous ruler of the Premyslid dynasty (his dates are probably 907-929 or 935) it is always prefaced with two titles--Prince and Saint. We know something about the facts of his actual "first" life mainly from accounts in church legends, which cannot be considered wholly accurate or trustworthy. These legends form the earliest level of his "second life", i.e. his cult. It is not so very different in general features from the cults of other European princes and kings who were canonised, but the cult of St. Wenceslas is completely unique in terms of the extent and meaning of its role in the musical culture of the nation.
The presence of St. Wenceslas in secular and "church" culture has been and remains the reason why he is held in a general honour not based so much on historical facts as on the symbolism of his story. In the story St. Wenceslas appears as a prince who has a fundamental meaning for Czech statehood: in consolidating the state on the map of Europe he preferred diplomacy to war, and when war was unavoidable he fought alone man to man and spared the troops; he encouraged the Christianisation of pagan Bohemia and preserved both the Western and Eastern liturgies; he was himself a pious Christian who took down gallows and freed slaves, a warrior against the pagans and so on and so forth. Especially given the shortness of the young prince's life, this characterisation is almost certainly more the later ideal of the hagiographers than a real historical account, but in medieval thought the ideal played a particularly significant role. According to the oldest legends Wenceslas was brutally murdered at the instigation of his pagan mother Drahomira by his brother Boleslav, while some current historical interpretations suggest that there may have been some kind of less conspiratorial dispute resulting in his death.
The Conditions for the Development of the Cult and its Context
Fratricide, the struggle between paganism on one hand and Christianity, diplomacy, education and alliance with Western Europe on the other, and last but not least the feudal tributary relationship of Wenceslas to the ruler of the Eastern Franks: these are the main aspects of permanent interest in Wenceslas. In the field of music the Wenceslas legend is not the oldest church-national tradition, but unlike the older tradition of Cyril and Methodius, the St. Wenceslas music tradition has developed without a break from the 10th century to this day. This has given it the leading position among all the Czech national traditions that have found expression in music (including the St. Vojtech, Hussite, Czech Brethren and Nepomuk traditions). Its meaning and expressions have been deeply involved in the development of national identity and relationship with the German-speaking population, the moulding of Czech statehood, church life, political life, and the interpretation of history, and in all branches of the arts as well as music. It has also become a permanent part of the traditions maintained by Czech minorities abroad.
The Ancient Slavonic and Latin Period
The musical component of the cult of St. Wenceslas is an element that has for centuries reflected the overall development of the cult while at the same time helping to mould it. We find musical elements from the earliest period of the Wenceslas cult. The canonisation of Wenceslas and promotion of his cult beyond the borders of Bohemia required the creation of a suitable liturgy for the celebration of his memory. The development of the St. Wenceslas Latin officium involved a complex of adopted and new elements that bore the strong personal imprint of Archbishop Jan of Jenstejn, but may well have been influenced long before his time by another famous supporter of the cult--Bishop Vojtech (Adalbert) of the Slavnikov line. In addition to the dominant share of well-known Latin liturgical traditions and legends, we have to take into account traditions of the Old Slavonic liturgy. Both western and eastern Christianity regarded St. Wenceslas as a martyr for the faith. Slavist specialists are familiar with the Old Slavonic form of the Latin St. Wenceslas officium, known as the Service in Honour of St. Wenceslas (The Service concerning St. Wenceslas). One important part of this is the Canon to St. Wenceslas. Although it survives only in Russian sources, we cannot rule out the possibility that it originated on Czech territory soon after the death of St. Wenceslas and may have been an influence in the genesis of the Czech hymn to Saint Wenceslas. The hymn to Saint Wenceslas, known as the St. Wenceslas Chorale, occupies first place among medieval pieces of music associated with St. Wenceslas. Together with the Hussite chorale Kdozjsu Bozi bojovnici [Ye Who Are God's Warriors], and the Czech anthem it is clearly the most important musical symbol of Czech culture. It is a living monument continually reinterpreted for the whole period of the development of the tradition, a monument of fundamental importance both for Czech literary and musical history and for European culture in general. While the older song Hospodine, pomiluj ny! [Lord, Have Mercy on Us] is still an Old Slavonic monument, the St. Wenceslas Chorale is the most important element in the earliest group of distinctively Czech songs. At the same time it shows the mixing of the older tradition of sacred song in the vernacular and the Latin Gregorian chant. The first known record of the text is quite late, appearing in a commentary relating to the year 1368 in the chronicle written by the Canon of the Prague Chapter Benes Krabic of Weitmil, and the first record of the melody comes from as late as the 1470s. Nevertheless there are many indications that we can date the hymn back to the mid-13th century. Catholic-orientated researchers have had a tendency to try rather uncritically to attribute authorship of the song to one of the bishops or archbishops of Prague, but if this had this been the case Benes would have been unlikely not to have mentioned it in his chronicle. The St. Wenceslas Chorale presents other mysteries beside obscurity of authorship and dating. There is the question of the precise scheme of repetition of verses, that of the conscious or unconscious melodic affinities with the chant Media vita in morte sumus by the St. Gallen monk Notkerus Balbulus Balbulus (ca. 840-912) and that of the dating of other verses. These mysteries have clearly helped to attract the constant interest of scholars in this medieval hymn.
The First High Point of the Tradition--the Reign of Emperor Charles IV
It is paradoxical that we find just the one mention of the St. Wenceslas Cult in the Chronicle of Benes in the period of its first great flowering under the Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378). Benes reports that on the basis of miracles associated with the tomb of St. Wenceslas, Archbishop Jan Ocko of Vlasim granted 40-day indulgences in 1368 to all those who made confession in penitence, did appropriate penitence and carried out a good deed by singing the hymn, sung since time immemorial, in honour of St. Wenceslas. The close connection between the song Saint Wenceslas and Czech statehood emerge, rather unexpectedly, in sources from the end of the Hussite Wars (1436). Charles IV had only included the song Hospodine, porailuj ny! [Lord, Have Mercy on Us] in his new order of ceremonies for the coronation of the Bohemian King, and so according to my own research the singing of the Saint Wenceslas at elections and coronations of the kind was an expression of the spontaneity and euphoria of the Czech-speaking population.
From the Premyslid Eagle to the Hussite Chalice
Inclusion of the song as one of the four Czech sacred hymns that were permitted by the Prague Synod on the 15th of June 1406 played a major part in preserving it in living repertoire. The first concrete place in which it is known to have been sung was the Bethlehem Chapel, where Master Jan Hus preached in the first years of the 14th century. The text of the song was used as an argument by the leading formulator of the Hussite programme Mikulas Biskupec of Pelhrimov, and also an admittedly somewhat vague remark to be found in a writing by Jakoubek of Stribro probably concerns the St. Wenceslas hymn. Generally, the Hussite period can be seen from one angle as the beginning of the struggle over which of the warring parties would identify more with the St. Wenceslas tradition and so strengthen the legitimacy of its position. This struggle continued even into the following period of relative peace between Catholics and Utraquists, and we find references to the St. Wenceslas hymn in several works of literature. The increase in the number of verses to nine in the 15th century testifies to its contemporary relevance, and in the following centuries it extended to as many as thirteen! It is from the end of the 15th century that the polyphonic arrangement of the chorale in what is known as the Specialnik kralovehradecky hymnbook comes--the compositional technique required a minor alteration of the introduction of the text to Nas mily svaty Valcave [Our Dear Saint Wenceslas].
The singing of the chorale at the signing of the Compacts (the agreement between the Council of Basle and Hussite representatives in 1436) on the 5th of July I436 in Jihlava, its singing at the coronation of Albrecht II as King of Bohemia on the 29th of June 1438, at the election of George of Podebrady on the 2nd of March 1458 and at the coronation of Matthias Corvinus as Bohemian King in 1471--these are the first events showing the formal state function of the song and its role as a kind of precursor of the national anthem. More or less every ruler of Bohemia identified with the St. Wenceslas tradition. The Jagiellon epoch is considered the second period of flowering of the tradition after the reign of Charles IV.
The Tradition as Part of the Habsburg Pietas Bohemica
The special relationship of the Habsburgs to St. Wenceslas was prefigured by the singing of the hymn at the election of Ferdinand I to the crown of Bohemia on the 24th of October 1526. We find music connected with St. Wenceslas in the interim period 1526-1648 especially in the field of Jesuit school drama productions and motets. The form of the school drama and Jesuit theatre was unthinkable without musical accompaniment, but this has only been preserved in rare cases. The purpose of these productions was to strengthen Catholic feeling but also the legitimacy of the Habsburg claim to the throne of Bohemia. One typical example of this trend is the well-known St. Wenceslas "melodrama", Sub olea pacis, by Jan Dismas Zelenka of 1723. Among the St. Wenceslas motets we should mention above all the anonymous Hymnus de sancto Wenceslao (probably of 1580) based on the chant Dies venit victoriae, and the motet Haud aliter pugnans by the master of vocal polyphony Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490-1562). In the text of the motet Willaert's employer Ferdinand I is conceived as the heir of St. Wenceslas in the fight against the pagans, i.e. the Turks. It is possible, however, that the text is also a reference to the power struggle between Ferdinand and his brother Charles V.
The hymn Saint Wenceslas, and also the earliest layer of different hymns to St. Wenceslas, can be found in hymnbooks and collections of songs before 1620, but the genre was to experience its greatest flowering only with the end of the Thirty Years War (1648). We encounter the text of the song, St. Wenceslas and brief descriptions of its history in most Catholic hymnbooks and practically all the books of the Baroque devoted to the saint. In non-Catholic sources we find the choral more as melody for contrafacta and historical songs. The hymnbook for Moravian Lutherans entitled Pisne chval bozskych [Songs of Divine Praise] by the Silesian Tobias Zavorka Lipensky) (ca. 1554-1614) of 1602 contains a hymn with the supertitle Den pamatujem svateho Vaclava, rytire ctneho, krest" ana Bohu mileho [Let us remember the day of St. Wenceslus, virtuous knight, Christian beloved of God]--a hymn that appears nowhere else!
In the course of the 17th century there is no doubt that the Catholic church showed more perseverance in the fight over St. Wenceslas. The saint's cult together with the cult of Mary and John of Nepomuk were made the basis of the policy of recatholicisation in which music played an important part. Several chronicles mention the fondness of Ferdinand III for the cult. In one illustration in Jan Tanner's book Heiliger Weeg von Prag nacher Alt-Bunzel ... (1680) Ferdinand is singing the St. Wenceslas chorale together with Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice. Emperor Leopold I (King of Bohemia 1657-1705), however, was the Habsburg who did the most for the St. Wenceslas tradition. In his reign St. Wenceslas pieces were written at the court in Vienna, and this support for the tradition motivated a number of Czech composers to do the same, with Leopold himself setting an example by writing his own St. Wenceslas music. In addition to the resonant names of the Viennese court musicians (Antonio Bertalli, Antonio Draghi, Antonio Caldaro) here we should above all mention Simon Josef Machaonsky, Heinrich Ignaz von Biber, Adam Vaclav Michna of Otradovice and Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky. The multilingual Baroque provided the impetus not only for Latin translations of the chorale, but also for translations into German. The first surviving examples are three language versions (1643-1645) in a book by Daniel Vojtech Himlstejn alias Jilji/Aegidius from St. John the Baptist, who worked in the Augustinian Monastery of St. Wenceslas Na Zderaze. The St. Wenceslas hymns found singers above all in the lay choral brotherhoods, some of whom depicted the saint in hymnbooks, or in the form of altar statues, and some by taking his name for their societies. Among many dozen hymns in these books those by A.V. Michna of Otradovice have the greatest artistic value. We find the highest number of St. Wenceslas songs in the hymnbooks of Jan Ignaz Dlouhovesky, Matej Vaclav Steyer, Vaclav Karel HolanRovensky, Jan Josef Bozan, Karel Frantisek Rosenmuller and Antonin Konias (the latter otherwise notorious for burning Czech non-Catholic books).
With the increasing success of recatholicisation and the rise of the Enlightenment the Habsburgs in the 19th century felt less of a need to identify with the St. Wenceslas tradition. In Czech society, however, the need for such identification persisted. In the history of Czech music this is documented both by surviving and only indirectly known works, for example by Josef Leopold Vaclav Dukat, Krystof Karel Gayer, Frantisek Xaver Brixi, Jan Frantisek Novak, Frantisek Vaclav Habermann, Jan Evangelista Antonin Tomas Kozeluh and others. These were in most cases masses and musical pieces used in the liturgy, i.e. above all the gradual and offertorium. The connections between he St. Wenceslas cult with the Marian cult forged in the Baroque were extended to include the cult of St. John of Nepomuk, St. Vojtech (Adalbert) and SS Cyril and Methodius. Symbiosis with Marian elements is well documented for example by St. Wenceslas hymns in the hymnbooks of pilgrims to the Austrian pilgrimage shrine of Mariazell. Legend tells that this place of pilgrimage was discovered by the sick Moravian margrave Jindrich in 1184 thanks to an apparition of St. Wenceslas, whom the margrave had prayed to for help together with the Virgin Mary. A quite different, secular cult was that of the connection between the Czech nation and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart--and even here the St. Wenceslas music tradition finds a place among the numerous real or alleged bonds between the two. One of the most affecting stories is that of the Czeeho-Viennese composer Jan Emanuel Dolezlek (1780-1858), who claimed that as a young boy he had seen Mozart weeping at the tones of the St. Wenceslas chorale in the church in Golcuv Jenikov. What is known as the Vincislao/Venceslao-operas have a controversial place in the tradition: the famous librettist Apostolo Zeno inserted the story of the Polish rule of the Bohemian Premyslid king Wenceslas II (1271-1305) into the scheme of Italian opera seria. The action is historically very inaccurate, but a number of researchers have seen an allusion to the murder of St. Wenceslas by his brother Boleslav in the fratricide motif. These operas are therefore sometimes put in connection to other musical works with St. Wenceslas themes.
Romanticism Shakes the Foundations of the Tradition
In the 19th century the Czech national revival, internal political events, secularisation and the antagonistic trend in relations between Czechs and Bohemian Germans all led to the emergence of different approaches to the St. Wenceslas tradition, which were then reflected in music. Compositions orientated to the church were still being written (e.g. by Frantisek Zdenek Skuhersky, Josef Cyril Sychra, Karel Dousa, Eduard Tregler, Josef Nesvera, Jan Nepomuk Skroup, Vaclav Emanuel Horak and others), while there were numerous adaptations of the Wenceslas Chorale for organ or choir a capella (e.g. by Josef Foerster, Josef Krejci, Jan August Vitasek, Josef Leopold Zvonar, Karel Bendl, and August Wilhelm Ambros). In the hymnbooks and hymn collections the Baroque set of St. Wenceslas hymns continued to predominate with the impetus for a new repertoire coming only much later, with the St. Wenceslas millenium in 1929. The National Revival involved a reassessment of the interpretation of the theme of Wenceslas as presented by Catholic and Habsburg circles. A new view of the original legends developed--including new scenarios of the death of St. Wenceslas. The architect of the murder (Wenceslas's mother Drahomira) and the murderer himself (Wenceslas's brother Boleslav) were no longer seen merely as "villains" and attention was directed to deciphering their motives. Only Romanticism could have brought a reversal of this kind, evident for example in the opera Drahomira by Richard Sebor and Frantisek Skroup, where the role of St. Wenceslas fades into the background and it is Drahomira and Boleslav who dominate the action.
The 19th century also had a taste for synthesising traditions--for example we see the emergence of a picture of St. Wenceslas as the leader of the mythical knights of Blanik, who according to legend will ride out of the mountain of Blanik and save the Bohemian Lands in their hour of greatest peril. In some sources St. Wenceslas leads an army together with the Hussite general Jan Zizka. Even before 1848, however, the Moravian censors had replaced the names Hus and Zizka in Klacel's often musically arranged poem The Voice from Blanik with the names of St. Wenceslas and St. Vojtech. This was an early sign of the way in which the Hussite and St. Wenceslas traditions were to be set against each other in terms of politics and religion, and so pieces that mixed musical citations from the two traditions were to prove controversial (for example the Antonin Dvoak's Hussite overture of 1883 or Ladislav Prokop's orchestral-vocal pictures The Old Town Market of 1912). The year 1848 appears as the last moment of nation-wide honour for St. Wenceslas, which then disappeared with the defeat of the revolution directed against the absolutist government and disappointment of the hopes raised by the national programme. In this revolutionary year St. Wenceslas was almost everywhere: at the instigation of the leading journalist and writer Karel Havlicek Borovsky, the Horse Market was turned into (Saint) Wenceslas Square, the composer Vaclav Bohumil Michalek wrote the St. Wenceslas March for the armed corps of the St. Wenceslas Brotherhood, and the chorale was sung at great masses on (Saint) Wenceslas Square, at the opening of the Slav Congress, at the send-off and return of the delegation to Vienna and on other occasions. In one very long broadsheet ballad St. Wenceslas even brings the knights of Blanik to Prague. An anti-German paraphrase of the chorale replacing the original comfort the grieving, drive away all evil with the words, drive out the Germans, foreigners, is usually dated to 1848 too, but as the Germanist Arnost Kraus has shown, it was definitely printed a few years earlier. The way in which the St. Wenceslas tradition broke the bounds of church and religious context is best illus trated by the once very popular song Exult in Joyous Hope (Hopes have been fulfilled). This was a kind of musical equivalent of the famous Kraluv Dvur and Zelena hora Manuscripts, fake ancient Slav epics "discovered" in 1817 and 1818 in order to encourage Czech national self-confidence in the face of the German nation and its old literary epics (for example the Niebelungenlied). Believed to be authentic for many years, the Hussite song actually invented by the concert singer and occasional composer Josef Theodor Krov 1797-1859) ends with a fragment of the melody of the St. Wenceslas Chorale and the heroic text, Let us love each other! Let us be united! Let us make ready! Let us take a stand! And let us not surrender! Amen, May God will it! Prayforus St. Wenceslas, Protector of the Bohemian Land! The song caught the attention of Franz Lizst, who based a masterly piano paraphrase around it.
Czech failure to achieve the political-cultural rights that Hungary as well as Austria enjoyed after 1867 in the monarchy, the increasing divergence between the interests of Czechs and Bohemian Germans, and the interpretation of St. Wenceslas as a weak proGerman monarch together with increasing secularisation meant that the St. Wenceslas tradition was coming to be seen in Czech society as a reactionary anti-patriotic relic of the Baroque while the Hussite tradition was ever more the point of reference in the search for a national political programme. In music this turning point was not so striking as it was in literature, for example, but a comparison of the numbers of new pieces with St. Wenceslas and Hussite themes is still more than eloquent. Outside the church sphere the tradition narrowed simply to the St. Wenceslas Chorale, which was sung with nostalgia as a historical element for example at the opening of the Ethnographic Exhibition in 1895. Some composers were capable of composing music in the St. Wenceslas tradition both for church and concert performance. An important role was played by new poetic texts on St. Wenceslas themes, with the most frequently musically arranged verses being those by Jaroslav Vrchlicky, Josef Vaclav Sladek, Vladimir Hornof, and in the first half of the 20th century by Xaver Dvorak, Jaroslav Dusek, Karel Toman, Frantisek Zak and others.
The Tradition in the Light of Freedom, Occupation and Liberation
During the 1st World War, mythical and symbolic messages became more intense in treatment of the St. Wenceslas Chorale. Afraid of stirring up of national passions, the government sometimes prosecuted some expressions of the St. Wenceslas tradition (including the singing of the chorale) under certain circumstances. At other times it exploited the symbol (for example the wartime "Wenceslas Loan"), although we might consider the omission of the St. Wenceslas Chorale from school readers to be repressive. The birth of the new independent republic in 1918 was celebrated by some new St. Wenceslas songs, and we can find St. Wenceslas musical elements in the circle of the Czech legionaries. The chorale appears with great urgency in the Meditation on the St. Wenceslas Chorale (1914) by Josef Suk and the Czech Rhapsody (1918) by Bohuslav Martinu. Catholic circles, and especially the writers Otakar Brezina and Jakub Deml criticised the government for not making the St. Wenceslas Chorale the national anthem. Only the St. Wenceslas Millenium celebrations in 1929 at least partly overcame the deep differences between Catholic and non-Catholic circles on the meaning and future of the St. Wenceslas tradition for the new Czechoslovak nation. This important jubilee inspired dozens of new musical compositions, most of them church-orientated, with masses predominating (e.g. by Jaromir Hruska, Antonin Hradil, Miroslav Krejci, Frantisek Suchy, Vojtech Rihovsky, Jindrich Vojacek, and Stanislav Mach) and smaller liturgical pieces, chorals, cantatas, oratorios, organ pieces etc. In 1937 a volume entitled Wenceslasian Musical Elements came out in the St. Wenceslas Bulletin series. In this volume Dobroslav Orel summarised all the evidence up to the 16th century, but neither in his nor any other publication was there an adequate assessment of the development of the musical form of the cult. Nonetheless, interesting and often previously unknown information about Wenceslasian music can be found in most of the books published for the St. Wenceslas millenium celebrations. The major film Saint Wenceslas with music by Jaroslav Kricka and Oskar Nedbal unfortunately had little impact because it was premiered six months after the millennium celebrations and was not presented with the sound, even though such movies were already being screened in Prague.
In the period following the Munich Agreement anti-republican circles started to present the Wenceslas tradition in a less anti-German, and after the occupation in an entirely pro-German way. St. Wenceslas was represented as the "first conscious herald of Czech understanding with the Reich", and the Protectorate minister Emanuel Moravec often referred to the St. Wenceslas Chorale. Yet while the tradition was officially supported, its former patriotic anti-German dimension (e.g. the singing of the chorale at the funeral of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk in September 1937 or at demonstrations in favour of maintaining independent statehood) lived on among the population. In music this schizophrenia was expressed in caution--some composers hid a quotation from the chorale by weaving it into a complex of polyphonic parts, while others left their St. Wenceslas compositions "in the drawer" or incomplete (e.g. Cantata 1945 by Josef Bohuslav Foerster). Official performance (e.g. Vitezslav Novak's St. Wenceslas Triptych) provoked debate on whether such pieces mobilised resistance to the occupiers or backed up Nazi misinterpretation. In the work of Jewish composers (Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullmann), pieces with Wenceslasian and Hussite themes suggested the extent to which this group of the population identified with Czech history. After the liberation, the Wenceslasian works composed during the war as well as new works were performed, but in the flood of new music this group had no special profile or importance. At the same time, with the transfer of the Bohemian Germans from Czech territory a whole area of the cult disappeared--in music this had involved ten German St. Wenceslas hymns. Nonetheless, some composers from the transferred group have come up with musical arrangements of the theme (Widmar Hader, Andreas Wilscher, Constantin Mach) and the St. Wenceslas tradition is still alive today in the community in Germany.
The Second Half of the 20th Century
After 1948 and the communist take-over, the tradition was taken up first by spiritually orientated composers living in "internal exile". These included Jan Evangelista Zelinka the younger, Stanislav Vrbik, Theodor Parik and Jaroslav Kricka. Some composers, for example Ladislav Vycpalek, managed to make the theme publicly acceptable by combining it with the Hussite theme, while others chose the path of identifying it closely with folk music (e.g. Vaclav Trojan), or the legend of the Blanik knights. One major ex ception was Boleslav Vomacka's pro-regime opera Boleslav I of 1957--Boleslav's murder of his brother is seen in a positive light, as an act necessary for the preservation of the state. The idea was obviously to create a historical parallel to February 1948 and legitimate the communist coup. It was not until the thaw at the end of the 1960S that broader interest in St. Wenceslas revived. It was expressed demonstratively following the death of Cardinal Josef Beran in 1969. The funeral took place in Rome, but crowds in and in front of St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague interrupted a meeting of functionaries of the Communist Party Central Committee in the nearby Spanish Hall of Prague Castle by singing the St. Wenceslas Chorale. Once again, the most new pieces in the tradition were written in the circle of spiritually orientated composers (for example Oto Albert Tichy, Petr Eben, Stanislav Vrbik and Jan Laburda). Among the compositionally most progressive of these was the treatment of a quotation from the St. Wenceslas Chorale in the "multi-quotational" piece Ceskeletokruhy [Czech Annals] (1973-1975) by the Brno composer Alois Pinos. The technique of episodic hidden quotation was also used for example by Jindrich Feld (Fantasia drammatica per orchestra sinfonica from the turn of the years 1968/1969). The Wenceslas pieces by composers living abroad (e.g. Bedrich Janacek, Antonin Tucapsky, Vaclav Nelhybel, and Jaromir Weinberger) represent a special chapter, and one that remains relatively unknown to the Czech public. The same is true of pieces by the children of Czech emigrants, with the Czecho-American composer and music publisher Joel Blahnik occupying first place among them. At the end of the 1980s and after 1989 the St. Wenceslas theme has been appearing more often, and not only in the field of classical music (e.g. Petr Eben, Milan Slavicky, Jan Ded, Svatopluk Janys, Pavel Prosek, Zdenek Lukas, Jan Hanus, Jan Simicek, Vladimir Svatos), but also on the ballad and rock scene. Since 1989 several dozen pieces of various kinds have appeared. In terms of genre the most progressive have been from the pen of Vladimir Hirsch and Michal Rataj, while the story of St. Wenceslas has been brought to life in the popular form of musical by Vaclav Brom and Richard Pachman.
Even despite the unfavourable conditions of the socialist period of Czech history, the Wenceslasian musical tradition retained the power to motivate composers to write new works and listeners to hear them. There is no doubt that today composers find the tradition more accessible than the mainly secularised general public. Ignorance of the St. Wenceslas Chorale became apparent during the demonstrations in November 1989 during the Velvet Revolution, when only the older generation sang the hymn, and two decades the situation is no better. In school music education only a short paragraph and note extract is devoted to the St. Wenceslas Chorale.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2008|
|Previous Article:||Marko Ivanovic: at first the operas chose me.|
|Next Article:||Jan Dismas Zelenka: Missa votiva e moll ZWV 18 (1739).|