Caesar Vive! Prague 1609. Music for Emperor Rudolf II

By Sebesta, Josef | Czech Music, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Caesar Vive! Prague 1609. Music for Emperor Rudolf II


Sebesta, Josef, Czech Music


Caesar vive! Prague 1609. Music for Emperor Rudolf II.

(Luython, Monte, de Santa Maria, Harant z Polzic a Bezdruzic, Sales, Luzzaschi, Maier, Cavazzoni, Rore, Orologio, Fatorini, Regnart)

Fraternitas Litteratorum, Stanislav Predota--artistic director, Martin Horyna.

Production: not stated. Text: Cz, Eng., Ger., Fr. Recorded: 2/2006, Chapel of the Chateau of Brandys nad Labem. Released: 2007.

TT: 55:49. DDD. 1 CD Supraphon SU 3898-2.

There are many repeated reports of the eccentricity of Rudolf II (1552-1612), whether in connection with politics or occultism. We do not as yet understand the arguments of the chroniclers of the time, however, since the basis on which the character assessments were made seems slender in terms of real information. Yet evidence more valuable than the reports of Rudolf's behaviour in terms of protocol and etiquette glimmers between the lines of Rudolf's closest associates or spurned functionaries of the imperial court. In the light of this evidence we can discern the natural features of Rudolf's character and psychological make-up, which were not only crucial for his time but were to project themselves in full only in the distant future. The historian Robert Evans made the best assessment when he noted Rudolf's court was full of the best diplomats, artists and learned men of their time, and a mere eccentric with a tendency to succumb to melancholia would hardly have been capable of attracting them there. Rudolf as a man showed marked maturity in all the branches mentioned and considered from the point of view of modern psychoanalysis it is clear that he had more than a touch of universal genius which then hindered him in practical conduct and decisions. In this environment the Muse of music had a high place, but only the kind of music that could partner emotional and mystical complexity. It was not then music for the liturgy. We have a great deal of evidence for this assertion. We also know that in 1589 Rudolf gave a large sum of money to his deputy cappellmeister Camillo Zanotti as a reward "for return to madrigals", when a new collection of the latter's madrigals came out in the same year, preceded nota bene by a Missarum.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On the pages of the brilliantly conceived booklet to the new CD--Caesar vive!--, the musicians therefore pose the question of "What could Rudolf II have heard?" if then rather sidelining the question of "How would he have heard it performed?", even though it is only by tackling this latter question that they could hope to gain some deeper insight into deep affect structure. The CD contains a total of 23 numbers, of which 14 are played in the tempo band of 54-56 MM. I really do not understand this monotony of tempo. The pieces concerned are of different genres (mass, motet, canzoneta, songs), with different styles of text (sacred, secular), and in different modes, and to force them into a single template of rhythm is to be insensitive to the materials. …

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