Musical Delicacies

— Early Music Concert Series —

The Angel and the Devil

A firework of virtuoso viola da gamba music — Music at the court of le Roi Soleil.

Thursday 14 August 2014 19:00 — Ogilvy hall, Špilberk castle, Brno City Museum, Špilberk 1, CZ–66224 Brno.


Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)Allemande La Laborde   (Pièces de viole, 1ère Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)La Polonaise   (Pièces de viole, Livre II, 1701)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Couperin   (Pièces de viole, 1ère Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)Plainte   (Pièces de viole, Livre III, 1711)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Forqueray   (Pièces de viole, 1ère Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)Prélude en harpegement   (Pièces de viole, Livre V, 1725)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Regente   (Pièces de viole, 3ème Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)Le Labyrinthe   (Pièces de viole, Livre IV, 1717)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Portugaise   (Pièces de viole, 1ère Suite)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Leclair   (Pièces de viole, 2ème Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)La Guitarre   (Pièces de viole, Livre III, 1711)
Antoine Forqueray (1672 – 1745)La Sylva   (Pièces de viole, 5ème Suite)
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)l’Arabesque   (Pièces de viole, Livre IV, 1717)

About the programme

The Baroque era adored contrast, especially artistic. Sharp profiles, exuberant curves, turns of events and harmonic digressions which were balanced by refined form, quality execution, shine and the richness of the polish used. It is logical that the Golden Age of Baroque culture fell under the reign of Louis XIV, the super-squandering Sun King. I don’t want to enumerate the well-known artistic deeds initiated by him, nor do I want to make a list of the hundreds of plays, poems, oratorios, motets, operas, cantatas or simple instrumental sonatas published and performed in public with his financial support. His formative impact on art genres and architecture cannot be overlooked. All this is in great contrast with Louis’ political “art”, which enhanced diplomacy to become the strongest tool of power and cast the army in the role of extras pretending, with few exceptions, to perform in a heroic drama about the nation, the King – the Sun and other gods, including God Himself.

The number of top artists living in the limelight of Louis’ liberal yet fastidious court is remarkable, yet it is fascinating how strongly the French style of Versailles – le goût français – affected other European courts. In a competition with Italy, its age-old cultural rival, the style of Versailles surprisingly won the leadership of European cultural development on the edge of Baroque, Rococo and Classicism in contrast with the Italian innovative and spontaneous, yet evanescent, artistic impact.

The name of today’s concert is the The Angel and the Devil. However, it could be also titled Marais and Forqueray or the Great Battle. The two most famous musical rivals of the Golden Age of French Baroque were the subject of fanatical and respectful gossip, arguments and curses almost everywhere in Europe at the end of the 17th and in the first half of the 18th century.

References to the angel and the devil, personified by Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray, may be found in many 17th and 18th century medias, newspapers, enyclopaedias and embarrassing public proclamation and pamphlets. However, this does not affect the fact that both these gamba virtuosi and composers, together with Jean-Baptiste Lully, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jean-Féry Rebel, François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau, are the best of what French baroque presented to the rest of the world.

The elaborate nuances of heavenly compositions by Marais seem to copy the fine filigree of the Baroque pargeting of the Versailles chateau. In his pieces for viola da gamba – piéces de viole – the modern language of Lully’s tragédie lyrique is intermingled with the intimacy and introversion very well known from the works by François Couperin. In his extensive works (about 600 works for viola da gamba, four operas, trio sonatas, and many lost works), Marais reached an ideal balance of melodic animation, sophisticated harmony and mastered form. The virtuosical aspect of his works remains hidden behind the curtain of le bon goût, enabling the melodies to flow naturally, almost effortlesly without a hint of Italian fire.

On the contrary, his major rival in music, a terror to all booze joints in Paris as well as to his own family, Antoine Forqueray, clearly augured another of the “musical devils”: Paganini. He fascinated Baroque spectators with enormous and open virtuosity in the same extent as Marin Marais, but the reason was completely different: While Marais presented pure music with no dark elements (with the exception of melancholy and sadness), Forqueray became famous for diabolically bold and extravagant style of playing his piéces de caractére which he sometimes even improvised on stage.

Tonight’s concert is an attempt to reconstruct an imaginary music duel between the two viol virtuosi, Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray, while I am selfish enough to play the role of both musicians, though using just one instrument and playing with only one pair of hands. If the fight were real, this task would be impossible – though in music, almost everything is possible!

© Petr Wagner

Foto: Petr Wagner

Petr Wagner

Born in Prague, Petr Wagner studied cello at the Prague Conservatoire with Josef Chuchro. This was followed by studies in musicology at the Charles University in Prague and at the Royal Holloway University of London. There he was introduced to viola da gamba by Richard Boothby, later continuing with Jaap ter Linden at the Akademie für alte Musik Dresden.

After having completed his studies in Dresden, Petr was invited to study with Wieland Kuijken at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague where he received the Uitvoerend Musicus solo diploma.

As a soloist, chamber and continuo player, Petr has appeared at numerous European festivals, as well as in other parts of the world – Israel, Japan, Mexico. In 1998 Petr Wagner founded Ensemble Tourbillon with internationally acclaimed musicians. Its core activities focus on 17th and 18th century repertoire, with music by Couperin, Bach, Marais, Rebel, Purcell, Finger, Fischer and Händel.

Petr regularly records and broadcasts for BBC, Polish Radio, Czech Radio and Czech TV. He has appeared on nearly 40 CDs, either as a soloist or chamber musician. His solo CDs with Pieces de Viole by Charles Dollé (Dorian Recordings, 2003 / re-released by ArsProduktion 2012, ARS 38518) and chamber music by Gottfried Finger (Arta, 2006) have won enthusiastic reviews and reception world-wide.

In 2011, Petr Wagner’s world premiere recording of Pieces de Viole by Roland Marais was released by ACCENT label (ACC 24299) and has immediately received very warm acceptance (Choc du mois / CLASSICA, Diapason etc).

In 2013, a new CD Gottfried Finger: The Complete Music for Viola da Gamba Solo with Petr and his Ensemble Tourbillon was released by ACCENT (ACC 24267).

In addition to his performing career, Petr devotes his time to teaching viola da gamba at the Brno Masaryk University and Lidzbark Warminski Early Music Summer School, and giving masterclasses in Prague, Düsseldorf, Moscow.

Foto: Jan Čižmář

Jan Čižmář

Jan Čižmář is a versatile performer focusing on historical plucked instruments. He performs regularly in Europe, Asia and the USA with ensembles such as Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Capella Cracoviensis, and under conductors such as Frans Brüggen, Christopher Hogwood, Giovanni Antonini, Yannick Nézet–Séguin and Christina Pluhar. He appears also as soloist with of baroque and renaissance repertoire.

After graduation in guitar and musicology in his native Brno he studied at the Royal College of Music in London, where he began playing the lute in the class of Jakob Lindberg. He continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with the teachers Nigel North, Joachim Held, Mike Fentross and Christina Pluhar.

He was the founder and editor of the Czech guitar magazine Kytara and contributes regularly to other musical periodicals. He is also intensely involved with publishing and research activities in the field of early music.

Jan Čižmář taught lute and related instruments at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice in Poland; currently he is teaching at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU) in Brno and at the Academy of Ancient Music at Masaryk University in Brno. He regularly gives courses and masterclasses in Europe and overseas.


Thank you

The concert takes place with financial support from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Statutory City of Brno.

The project “Summer festival of Early Music” takes place in cooperation with Brno City Museum.

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