Summer Festivities of Early Music starts July 11

The festival brings international performers to some splendid venues

The Summer Festivities of Early Music festival this year focuses on Versailles as a theme. The 18th edition of the international festival takes place July 11 to Aug. 7 at various venues across Prague.

The seven events in the festival will bring back the music of the French court, with some works in their modern premieres.

“After last year's Venice theme, we have moved to another important music center of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries this year,” said Josefína Matyášová, executive director of the festival, and continues.

“However, we do not want to present works for the thousandth time. Our goal is to present significant, but not always known works, whether monumental, sacred music, compelling opera arias and ballet suites, or lighter and more intimate music for the royal chambers,” she added.

This year's festival was prepared in collaboration with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. The opening festival concert called The King of the Heaven will be held July 11 at the Church of Sts. Simon and Jude. It features motets for the royal chapel composed during the reign of Louis XIV, which will be performed by four soloists and a choir from the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Les Pages et les Chantres, accompanied by the Collegium Marianum orchestra and under the baton of Olivier Schneebeli. The evening includes contemporary premieres of works that have not been performed in centuries.

The closing concert is Music for the Sun King, featuring the opera arias and ballet suites composed for Louis XIV, with works by Lully, Campry and Destouchese. The concert takes place Aug. 7 in the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum. A special feature is that the Collegium Marianum orchestra will play on copies of instruments from the famous court orchestra, “Les Vingt-quatre Violons du roi.”

Other shows in the program will feature Spanish and Basque dance rhythms, which were in Versailles in the 17th century, Italian cantatas and arias that were popular with Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, violin music dedicated to the royal chambers and pieces by Parisian authors influenced by Telemann.

Following the opening, the July 17 concert Duel de Gamba will be at the Summer Refectory of Strahov Monastery with works by Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray, played by Belgium's Hathor Consort.

Solo for the King will be on July 20 in the Theresian Hall of Brevnov Monastery, and will feature three generations of royal harpsichord music played by Jean Rondeau.

The evening called Dantza on July 24 at Troja Chateau will show off Spanish and Basque dance rhythms, mingled with French music. The renowned Spanish ensemble Euskal Barrokensemble will perform.

Troja Chateau will again be the venue on July 21 for Music for the Crown Princess, with cantatas by Hasse, Vivaldi, Leo and Rameau presented by the Ensemble Odyssee from Holland.

The next to last concert in the festival is at the Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle on Aug. 2, and is called Gallant Conversations. It features works by Telemann, Guillemain and Mondonville. Germany's Hofkapelle München will play.

A side event is the screening of a recorded performance of Bourgeois Gentilhomme at Theatre Trianon from 2004. It is at the cinema hall of the French Institute on July 13.

For more information visit www.letnislavnosti.cz.

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