Adam Vaclav Mirtina: The Czech Lute.
Ensemble Inegal, Adam Viktora. ARTA Records 2015.
Czech Lute (1653), written by the great Baroque composer and poet Adam Michna of Otradovice (1600-1676), is one of the best-known and most remarkable works in the entire history of Czech music and literature alike. Up until last year, however, this invaluable source was incomplete, missing the instrumental parts. Hence, all the previous (numerous) performances, recordings (CDs--Musica Bohemica, conductor: Jaroslav Krcek, 1991 and 2002; Ritornello, artistic director: Michael Pospisil, 1996, etc.) and sheet music editions (Martin Horyna and Michael Pospisil) had reflected this condition. The collection of songs has recently been partially completed owing to the discovery of the first violin part by Petr Danek at the library of the Homeland Museum in Slany (see CMQ 2/2015). This finding, which has thrilled musicologists both in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in the world (it was even written about in The New York Times!), has shifted our knowledge of Michna's piece a great step forward. The discovery was promptly responded to by Ensemble Inegal, headed by its artistic director, Adam Viktora, who have recorded a new album containing the brilliantly performed completed version of The Czech Lute. The disc features Michna's wonderful music in the hitherto purest form imaginable. The recently discovered first violin part made it possible to fully reconstruct the ritornellos (by adding the part of the second violin) and the instrumental accompaniment to the voices. The previously missing ritornellos in particular present Michna's songs in their original, simple beauty, without various kinds of "instrumental orgies" (recorders, chamois horns, kortholts, cornamuses, etc., etc.), based on the employment of the highest possible number of instruments, more or less alien to 17th-century music ... Unlike in the case of the previous recordings, Ensemble Inegal give a splendid performance of the piece in its original Baroque form! When listening to the CD, I said to myself: at long last I can hear that which Michna actually composed, music of great beauty. The original work, replete with outstanding ideas, magnificent melodies (and texts!), hemiolas and the like, is, of course, far more intriguing than any reconstruction or revision. One of the most interesting aspects is the fact that the ritornellos employ many more imitations than one would expect, with the instrumental accompaniments being overall very lush too. On the present recording, the Angel Friendship at last no longer sounds like a sort of march, but like a totally normal, lovely piece with ritornellos, richly embellished with ornaments, particularly typical of the violinist Lenka Torgersen, as is the case of the majority of the pieces. In this interpretational conception, Michna's The Czech Lute has acquired a "tinge" of folk music-making, which becomes it very well indeed. The singers on the CD--Gabriela Eibenova and Daniela Cermakova--form a matching pair. And Ensemble Inegal are so preciously musical that the listener never gets bored, even though the entire album is actually made up of music for the same instrumental setup (with the exception of the 13th track, in which two violins are replaced by three violas). The disc's high sonic quality is undoubtedly in part the result of the sterling work of the recording team, headed by the experienced Jaroslav Krcek. The CD has brought us the far-famed Michna's opus in a novel, yet original beauty!