Musica Florea

Article excerpt

Musica Florea is today one of the best ensembles in Europe specialising in the performance of earlier music on period instruments and basing its interpretation on the careful study of sources and period aesthetics. In the almost fourteen years of its existence it has appeared at hundreds of concerts in the Czech republic and throughout Europe, and has also been a guest at such important music festivals as the Prague Spring, Europalia, Resonanzen Wien, Festival van Vlaanderen Brugge, Europamusicale and others. As well as playing the works of J. S. Bach, G. P. Telemann, Jan Dismas Zelenka, A. Vivaldi, J. B. Lully, W. A. Mozart and other well known composers, Musica Florea has given modern premieres designed to revive interest in many forgotten composers and their music.

I first encountered the Musica Florea ensemble at the 1995 Prague Spring Festival, where it performed a work by the Czech master of the earlier 18th century Jan Dismas Zelenka - Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (ZWV 17) of 1735. I was very struck by the precision of performance from what was at that stage an ensemble full of young musicians entirely unknown to me, and it left an outstanding impression. Since then I have followed with interest the further development of the ensemble at numerous concerts and in recordings that soon started to collect many awards from Czech and foreign music institutions.

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The origins of Musica Florea go back to 1992, when Marek Stryncl, the founder, cellist, conductor and musical director of the ensemble and its first members were studying at the conservatory in Teplice. With good facilities and some helpfully inclined professors, the members of the young group became more closely involved in Baroque music.

The ensemble's first concert took place on the 10th of March 1992 in the Church of St John the Baptist in Teplice. It presented a chamber version--2 violins, viola, 2 cellos, double bass and harpsichord (or organ)--of works by the lesser known Baroque composers Johann Rosenmuller and Tarquinius Merula and a mass by Adam Michna of Otradovice. For the Michna mass Marek Stryncl found six amateur singers, which in itself reveals his desire to find a new, non-traditional sound using voices unencumbered by classical training.

"In an experimental spirit I really looked forward to 'untrained' voices, as a way of getting closer to the aesthetics of period singing in the circumstances of today.""

At this concert the members of the ensemble were already using old

instruments, initially lent to them by Pavel Klikar, a friend of Marek Stryncl since shortly before the Revolution in 1989. It was from Klikar that Stryncl also gained his first practical experience when playing in his ensemble Musica Antiqua Praha.

"... in the first year on the Valtice courses I completely fell for the charm of 'authentic performance' thanks to one of the concerts by the Musica Antiqua Praha. I liked the completely different sound of the Baroque instruments, the colour, technique of play, and even the tuning between the separate pieces. It just grabbed me ..."

Musica Florea does not have a fixed number of players but uses different combinations of musicians drawn from a circle who co-operate with the ensemble depending on the needs of each programme. Thus other strings, a wind section, and sometimes percussion, can be added to the seven core players--2 Baroque violins, viola, cello, archlute, double bass and harpsichord / organ.

The core of the orchestra is therefore stringed instruments, sometimes with a viola da gamba which ceased to be used in later music. The members of the ensemble mainly play on original old instruments from the later 18th century, and the viola da gamba is a copy produced in the 1990s on the model of old instruments from the turn of the 17th/18th centuries. Premysl Vacek, the court player on the archlute and theorbo in Musica Florea, uses Jiri Cepelak's copies of instruments from the mid-17th century. …