Musica Florea Prague

Musica Florea Prague
Baroque Orchestra

The Musica Florea ensemble was established in 1992 by a group of young professionals who united their common interest in the study and authentic performance of Baroque music on period instruments. The ensemble very soon achieved their first major successes under the guidance of violoncellist and conductor Marek Štryncl. The first of these included a performance of Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis by Jan Dismas Zelenka at the Prague Spring International Music Festival in 1995. They were also presented with the highest award for their very first CD recording of the same Mass in the prestigious French music magazine Diapason in April of that year. The ensemble was subsequently invited to perform at several of the most important festivals in the Czech Republic including Prague Spring 1995, St. Wenceslas Festival 1995, Ceský Krumlov International Music Festival 1996, Festival Concentus Moraviae 1996, 1997 (2000), The Strings of Autumn Festival 1996, 1997, 1998, Musica Ecumenica 1998, and regularly to the Valtice Castle Baroque Summer. The ensemble has also performed at numerous foreign music festivals including Stary Sacz in Poland; Tours, Alencon, Le Mans, and Flers in France; Pro Musica Antiqua Bremen 1997 in Germany; the Central European Festival of Concert Art 1998 and Musica Nobilis 1998 in Slovakia; the 1998 Brežice Early Music Festival in Slovenia; the 1998 French Institute Early Music Festival and the 1999 Sopron Early Music Days in Hungary; and Europalia 98 in Belgium. Commissioned by several international festivals for the 1997/98 season, they performed various larger works: J. S. Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243) at the Festival Concentus Moraviae 1997, M. A. Charpentier's Te Deum at the Valtice Festival 1997, and Henry Purcell's The History of Diocletian with the Ensemble Philidor and Les Musiciens du Paradis in France. In September 1998, Musica Florea invited the Slovakian Baroque music orchestra Musica Aeterna and the French Ensemble Philidor to perform a celebration concert together as a large 18th-century Baroque orchestra to present the major orchestra works by J. D. Zelenka at the opening concert of The Strings of Autumn 98 Festival in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle. December 1998 was devoted to a broad presentation of Czech Republic culture in the very center of Europe, Brussels, where Musica Florea performed at the prestigious Europalia 98 Festival with great success. Mr. Hadelin Donnet, General Music Program Director of Europalia 98 for Czech Radio 3, Vltava, observed, “… it was a very challenging pleasure to hear that in the Czech Republic Baroque music is performed on such a high standard, comparable with all the top ensembles of Europe. Listening to the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis of Czech Jan Dismas Zelenka performed by Musica Florea was unforgettable musical experience completing the musical program of Europalia 98.” In 1994, Musica Florea began a series of unique recording sessions for Studio Matouš of works by P. J. Vejvanovsky, J. H. Schmelzer, H. I. F. Biber, Ph. J. Rittler, and other composers from the Kromeriz archives. Musica Florea's magnificent performances with Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená earned the ensemble their latest recording success, accompanying arias taken from cantatas and oratorios by J. S. Bach. The recording of these, published under the Archiv Production label of the world-renowned Polygram-Deutsche Grammophon company, won the Golden Harmony Award for best Czech CD recording of 1997. Great success at Slovenia's 1998 Brežice Early Music Festival opened further commissioned cooperation with Slovene Radio Broadcasting in 1999. During the 1999/2000 season, the ensemble performed the music for the Baroque opera Castor et Pollux by J. Ph. Rameau at the Estates Theater of the National Theater Opera in Prague. This was the first performance of a Baroque opera in the modern history of Czech music realized in the period style on period instruments and with period ballet sections, costumes, and scenery, and lighting. During the following two seasons, the ensemble enjoyed some very interesting tours abroad. As a part of the unique Bach 2000 project of the Melbourne International Festival of Arts, Musica Florea along with fifteen other outstanding ensembles of the world performed almost all the cantatas, Masses, and oratorios of J. S. Bach. Later they also toured Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary. For Prague's City of Culture 2000 program, the ensemble prepared a unique historical scenic performance of the coronation oratorio Sub Olea Pacis et Palma Virtutis by J. D. Zelenka, which also opened the Europa Musicale festivals in Germany and the Czech Republic; further special performances of the oratorio were booked for Hungary, Poland, and other venues in Germany. Presenting a broad palette of Baroque music programs reflecting the works of Central European masters of the époque, the ensemble also toured Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary. For the 2000/2001 season, Musica Florea prepared new recording sessions for the Supraphon Recording Company (Czech Republic) and Pure Classics (Germany,) as well as a special live recording for the European Broadcasting Union in March 2000 with Magdalena Kožená. In 1997 Czech TV filmed a documentary about the ensemble, Who is Marek Štryncl and Musica Florea?, and in 1998 they performed in a documentary dedicated to P. J. Vejvanovský and in the artistic documentary The Last Day in Bohemia about J. Haydn. The ensemble appears live on Czech television and radio as well, and the members of Musica Florea are much sought-after as guest performers at concerts both in the Czech Republic and abroad.
G. Fr. Handel · Judas MaccabaeusG. Fr. Handel · Judas Maccabaeus
George Frideric Handel
JUDAS MACCABAEUS
The English Oratorio HWV 63, performed according to the traditions of the time
by Sinéad Pratschke (Soprano), Catherine King (Mezzo-Soprano),
Charles Humphries (Countertenor), Mark Le Brocq (Tenor),
Christopher Purves (Bass), Musica Florea Prague,
and the Maulbronn Chamber Choir (Maulbronner Kammerchor)
Conductor: Jürgen Budday
A concert recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
HD Recording · DDD · Double Album · c. 150 Minutes
2 CD
EUR 33,00SpotifyDeezerNapsterApple MusicAmazon MusicTidaliTunes MasteredFor...Qobuz HDeClassicalPresto Classical HDReview

This is a drum beat...

The technical sounding, outstandingly successful recording supplies the discography of the work with an interesting and worth listening to variant on the recordings by Harnoncourt, Gardiner, Marriner and Creed...

Dr. Karl-Georg Berg, DIE RHEINPFALZ

Review

Oratorio in three movements, performed in a historical setting

G.F.Handel's oratorio in three movements, Judas Maccabaeus, is performed in English in a historical setting by Sinéad Pratschke, Catherine King, Charles Humphries, Mark LeBrocq, Christopher Purves, Maulbronner Kammerchor and Musica Florea Prag. Juergen Budday conducts this concert recording from the convent church in Maulbronn.

New Classics UK

Review

Excellent recording

This is an excellent recording of one of Handel's best and most popular oratorios, and is highly recommended...

Classical Music UK & The British Music Society

Review

A surprising, wonderful, buoyant HIP Judas Maccabaeus with an outstanding Sound

I actually received this recording by mistake, but this live performance of Handel's oratorio is absolutely excellent, a refreshing joy to listen to and to return to. For a long time my favorite Maccabaeus has been the Mackerras version on Archiv, with Janet Baker. This recording, conducted by Jurgen Budday, is an Historically Informed Performance, which means they used original instruments and techniques (less string vibrato, smaller orchestra sections with more transparent sound, men using falsetto in place of women in some parts, for example). I will compare the merits of these two. This Budday HIP performance has gotten under my skin for several reasons: the conducting is exciting and very tasteful; the DDD sound is outstanding; the soloists are excellent, fresh, and stylistically intelligent; the HIP orchestra is tight and accompanies the singing deftly! I had never even heard of Jurgen Budday before.
Mackerras is excellent too, so I am not abandoning that recording any time soon; that recording is ADD, on modern instruments, and not all the soloists sound as fresh or as idiomatic as they do on this Budday recording - which really opened my ears.
To begin with Budday's tempi are buoyant - not simply fast, but well sprung. There is an energy which I think comes in part from it being a live performance. Budday's performance is about 20 minutes shorter than Mackerras' and is thus on 2 disks instead of 3. Mackerras is also a lively conductor and knows his way around Handel; in many ways his performance is a revelation, he is very sensitive in the solo accompaniment, and there is never any feeling of dragging. It must be said that both conductors have put themselves at the service of this music - individual personalities do not emerge to over-interpret Handel's musical and dramatic intentions. The music is allowed to speak for itself in both recordings, and the big moments ("See the Conqu'ring Hero", for example) are given their full due, making great impact (and an interesting contrast) in either scale.
The digital sound on the Budday CDs is excellent, catching the details of the soloists, choir, and orchestra as if it were a studio recording, but with the added atmosphere of a live hall - it sounds absolutely great in my listening room (using Yamaha 200W amp, ADS 9 speakers, and Denon CD player equipment). The Mackerras recording has great studio sound which I would characterize as detailed and full, but less atmospheric since it's ADD and not live. It also sounds a little "closer", which is an artifact of being a studio recording.
Budday's soloists are all excellent and have beautiful voices! They all sound young, fresh, and in particular they sound as if they all live with this kind of music. They sing gloriously - bright and strong in the ensembles, tender and quite moving in solos and duets. The choir (Maulbronner Chamber Choir) is less massive than modern performances tend to use - and thus more detailed and clear, and in some places men use falsetto in place of women in some alto solos, to haunting effect. Mackerras' soloists are all great singers, some of whom are opera stars and others whom are known for HIP careers. Janet Baker in particular is simply captivating, and her duets with Felicity Palmer are quite moving. The Wandsworth School Choir, boys, sounds larger and fuller, thus less detailed and clear by comparison. I know some people feel boys choirs sound too homogeneous, but I think it works well here.
Budday's orchestra (Musica Florea Prag) uses original instruments and HIP techniques and they sound wonderful, you hear everything. The string sound is warm (early HIP performances could sound "dry" to modern ears). The playing is technically excellent, crisp, often breathtaking, and always very sensitive. Mackerras' orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, is closer to a modern symphony orchestra. They sound full and warm, with a richness that many listeners have become accustomed to, but they are also crisp and totally inside this music.
What to do, what to do? If you're looking for an accurate rendering of this music that is close to what Handel's audience heard, than this Budday recording is the one. If you're a Janet Baker fan (like I am), then Mackerras will be for you. If you prefer digital sound, then Budday is the way to go (although both sound great). If you like to hear the intricate details in the orchestra and chorus, well, then Budday is for you.
For me, I'll tell ya, I am glad I have both now. I simply cannot make up my mind and I love them both!

R. Nadel 'Opinion Above Knowledge!' (Boulder, CO, USA) on Amazon.com

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