František JIRÁNEK (1698-1778)
Concerto in G for bassoon, strings and continuo [13:26]
Concerto in G major for flute, strings and continuo [10:56]
Sinfonia in D major [7:34]
Concerto in F major for bassoon, strings and continuo [9:39]
Concerto in D minor for violin, strings and continuo [15:53]
Sinfonia in F major [9:38]
Sergio Azzolini (bassoon), Marina Katazhnova (violin), Jana Semerádová (flute)
Collegium Marianum/Jana Semerádová
rec. July 2010, Church of Our Lady, Queen of Angels, Prague
SUPRAPHON SU 4039-2 [66:50]
Eyes attuned to the geographical centre of Europe may have noticed
that Supraphon has embarked on an exciting new series devoted
to ‘Music from Eighteenth Century Prague’. In truth this company
has always given time to exploring Bohemian, and to a lesser
extent, Moravian music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
This latest development, with fine booklet artwork and high
production values will interest many, I’m sure. Brentner, Jacob
and Reichenauer are just three of the names in their opening
salvo, and they will be unfamiliar to many, if not most: they
certainly were to me. To this trio we can now add Frantiek
Jiránek, who at least sports an authentically Czech name, and
not one that was Germanised, or Italianated, as was so often
the fashion of the time.
Jiránek was born in 1698 on the estate of the Morzin family,
aristocrats of considerable means. His early years are unknown
but by the 1720s and 1730s he was working at the court of Count
Wenzel Morzin, a splendid, if grandiloquent portrait of whom,
by an unknown artist, adorns one of the pages of the booklet.
The court was in Prague’s Lesser Town. Between 1724 and 1726
Morzin sent the young composer to Venice to study. It’s believed,
but there seems no direct evidence other than a suggestive payment
of 400 florins, that he studied with Vivaldi. On his return
Jiránek played in the Count’s orchestra but when it was disbanded,
on Morin’s death, the budding composer travelled to Dresden,
where he died nearly forty years later, having risen to become
a distinguished member of the band of Heinrich von Brühl.
Only thirty of his compositions have survived, suggesting an
element of the instrumentalist-composer, rather than composer-composer.
In this disc we have two concertos for bassoon, one for flute,
and one for violin. There are also two Sinfonias.
The G minor bassoon concerto attests to the remarkable standards
of the Dresden court orchestra. The articulation of the intended
player must have been virtuosic in the extreme if this and the
F major companion concerto are any index of the technical demands
routinely met at the time. The interesting, wandering melody
line on the slow movement of the G minor, with its delicate
supportive string tissue, is most interesting, whilst the repeated
scales in the finale offer a fillip of triumph for the performer.
The F major explores rather more the inherent pawkiness of the
bassoon’s tonal qualities with hugely attractive little jumps,
fast runs and registral changes to the fore in the opening movement.
The brief Adagio is rather desolate, with repeated orchestral
figures against which the soloist spins his lyric line. This,
I think, is the heart of Jiránek’s compositional gift – a concise,
rather melancholy, distillation of the lyric qualities imparted
to him by Vivaldi.
The Flute Concerto is, by contrast, nimble and genial, and lightly
orchestrated. Once more his gift for lyric compression can be
heard in the slow movement, and I particularly like the way
in which the bass line is sprung in the concerto’s finale –
something Collegium Marianum take great pleasure in doing. The
Violin Concerto is perhaps less successful, principally because
it strives for more. The intention seems to be for a more public
and virtuosic extrovert virtuosity but the music feels a touch
crabbed, indeed forced. The most interesting of the three movements
is the finale when the music suddenly wakes up. There is nothing
in the documentation to indicate whether the cadenza is notated,
or has been interpolated by an editor or indeed by the soloist,
The Sinfonias vary in quality. The finer of the two is the D
major which again evinces a strong lyrical gift. The F major
is rather stolid.
Collegium Marianum is an original instrument band and plays
crisply and with considerable attention to detail. The most
arresting soloist is the brilliantly agile bassoonist Sergio
Azzolini, whose ‘lowing calf’ tone is agreeably diverting, but
all play with intelligence and discretion. The recording is
good too – the microphones sufficiently close-up to catch detail
but not to get swamped by the church acoustic.
These undated works reflect the high standards of little known
instrumentalist-composers working in Prague, Dresden and beyond.
The concertos are all decidedly attractive discoveries and are
all well laid out for the band and soloists, written from the
inside out by a working practitioner with a strong and distinct
Italianate lyric gift.