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Bohemian Baroque

Bohemian Baroque: Czech Musical Culture and Style, 1600-1750

Robert G. Rawson
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Bohemian Baroque
    Book Description:

    Traditional polemical histories of Bohemia and Moravia identify the period from the early seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century as a 'period of darkness' -particularly in terms of Czech-language culture. This book challenges that interpretation from the perspective of musical culture and demonstrates that this was actually a vibrant, productive and innovative period, both for music in the Czech language and instrumental music. By focussing on the distinctive nature of Czech-language education and devotional traditions (rehabilitated along Catholic lines after the Thirty Years War), the book reveals a new understanding of Czech musical practices and repertoires as a beguiling blend of the older, non-conformist, vernacular traditions with the new, theatrical, Italian styles and genres. Drawing on a broad range of genres including sonatas, concertos, oratorios, Passion music, masses, motets, litanies and operas, 'Bohemian Baroque' reveals a fascinating culture and repertoire that have long been overlooked. In the Czech lands, seventeenth-century courtly life emerged in a much different way from many other European countries. 'Bohemian Baroque' underscores the prominent role of rural life in shaping musical culture more broadly in Bohemia and Moravia and consequently draws attention to the works and environments of composers whose careers were primarily in the Czech lands (in contrast to the traditional focus on more famous émigré composers). The book also considers the influence of Germanic traditions on Czech musical culture; several areas of overlap reveal newly identified examples of shared repertoires-in some cases, German and Czech even appear within a single work. Taken as a whole, 'Bohemian Baroque' posits a new paradigm in which received notions of 'Czechness' in the musical culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries might be reconsidered. 'Bohemian Baroque' will be required reading for anyone interested in the music of the Habsburg Empire and Central Europe, cultural history, or baroque music more generally. Students and scholars of musical style and music and identity will equally find much of interest here. Robert G. Rawson is Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-193-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Music Examples
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  6. Note to the Reader
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. Pronunciation Guide
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Map of Bohemia and Moravia
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  9. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  10. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    In the context of Bohemia and Moravia, music history has inherited a strange legacy from literary history. I use the plural ‘narratives’ at the start of the book to highlight the fact that there is no single national narrative, but rather several competing ones, written along linguistic, religious, confessional and, later, geographical lines. These are not stable concepts and the determining factors of ‘nation’, real and imagined, changed over time. So when eighteenth-century writers describe Bohemian patriotism, it would be anachronistic to apply this to the same idea of ‘nation’ understood amongst the Hussites, for example. Certainly, up to the...

  11. CHAPTER 1 National Narratives and Identities
    (pp. 4-33)

    The traditional lands of the Czech-speaking people are Bohemia, Moravia and parts of Silesia, and it is these provinces that make up the modern Czech Republic (though only part of historical Silesia). The origin of the name ‘Bohemia’ itself, however, has nothing to do with Slavonic culture at all, but rather the Boii, a Celtic tribe that inhabited that region until around the first century AD.¹ The Boii were driven westward by Germanic tribes from the area around modern-day Bavaria, who were then, in turn, driven back westward by Slavic tribes from the east. These Slavic tribes contributed to the...

  12. CHAPTER 2 Cultural and Musical Idioms of Town and Country
    (pp. 34-58)

    In the first few decades after the war, musical life in Bohemia and Moravia reflected the social, religious and, to some extent, linguistic tensions that characterised the renewed constitutions [Verneuerte Landesordnung] of 1627 and 1628. We have very little idea of the true nature of secular peasant music in seventeenth-century Bohemia or Moravia, but we do have many examples from the non-conformist traditions of rural church music and through these sources, aspects of continuity and change can be more readily observed.

    There was no indigenous, specifically ‘Austrian’, style of church music before the Thirty Years War, and musical style followed...

  13. CHAPTER 3 Devotional Practices and the Culture of Conversion
    (pp. 59-88)

    On 21 June 1621 the twenty-seven Protestant and Utraquist nobles (the composer Kryštof Harant among them) who had led the rebellion against the Habsburgs stepped onto the executioner’s platform on Prague’s old town square. Looming over the square opposite the platform was the the imposing Týn Church, between whose towers sat a large golden chalice situated above a platform that held a statue of Jiří [George] of Poděbrady, the last Hussite king.¹ The chalice had been the Hussite symbol adopted by the Utraquist cause which maintained that communion should be given to the laity in ‘both kinds’ [sub utraque specie]....

  14. CHAPTER 4 ‘Thither from the Country’—Village Life and Education
    (pp. 89-106)

    By the second half of the seventeenth century the demand for musicians for Prague’s many churches, courtly institutions and aristocratic households drew them to the capital from the provinces. Once in Prague, the musical traditions of the villages mixed with the cosmopolitan styles that typified musical life in any great European capital. Although there was no single musical institution in Prague during this period to rival certain provincial establishments such as the Liechtenstein court at Kroměříž, the sheer number of churches and monasteries in and around Prague made attractive employment prospects and also provided opportunities to make contacts with other...

  15. CHAPTER 5 Christmas Pastorellas
    (pp. 107-143)

    More than any other part of the church calendar, the liturgical demands and local traditions of the Christmas season (covering Advent, Christmastide and Epiphany), combined with the need for Catholic rehabilitation, permitted and even encouraged vernacular traditions in the context of the Catholic Mass and other seasonal devotions. The musical and devotional practices that emerged often produced exceptions to liturgical conventions typically encountered in the rest of the year. The resulting repertoire would flower particularly brightly in the Czech lands, leaving a monumental body of vernacular church repertoire with few parallels elsewhere in Catholic Europe.¹ These tendencies are part of...

  16. CHAPTER 6 ‘Melancholy Ditties about Dirt and Disorder’
    (pp. 144-171)

    As Koželuch rather wryly observed in his remarks to Brixi about perpections of high and low music, it seems that the rustic style was not far beneath the surface of at least some works for rather elevated contexts.¹ In some cases these rustic influences are merely a constituent part of the experiences gained in rural towns and schools, and in other cases they are more consciously employed to evoke the music of rural Bohemia and Moravia. The musical evocation of rustic life ranged from the use of certain textures and harmonic and melodic idioms to outright quotations of popular (or...

  17. CHAPTER 7 Musical Devotions and the (Re)Engineering of Patron Saints
    (pp. 172-195)

    The revival and rehabilitation of the cult of saints—and, more specifically, patron saints—was a key part of the more visible aspects of the plan for re-Catholicisation of the Czech lands. The rehabilitation of local patron saints provided Catholic inroads into existing historical (or quasi-historical) figures from Bohemian history and through them Catholic reformers saw the opportunity to exploit existing patterns of devotions to achieve several goals at once: the Catholicisation of Bohemia’s past and the restoration of Catholic orthodoxy to her present and future. These efforts provided a popular and enduring legacy in a variety of musical devotions—...

  18. CHAPTER 8 Between Venice and Prague—the Vivaldi Connection
    (pp. 196-220)

    The unsettled relationship between the Austrian Empire and France would help to ensure that the Italian influence remained stronger than the French in the second half of the seventeenth century. Italian music had dominated courtly life in the Czech lands long before the Thirty Years War. Furthermore, many of the stylistic traits associated with the Italian style by the early eighteenth century had long been central features of Czech music. The anapaestic and syncope rhythmic patterns, the use of parallel keys and the new emphasis on melody often at the expense of a contrapuntal bass have come to be closely...

  19. CHAPTER 9 Identity on the Stage
    (pp. 221-258)

    Outside of a few notable courtly circles, Italian opera struggled garner the sort of public enthusiasm it had in many other parts of Europe. With a Bohemian tradition of plays with musical songs or interludes (perhaps closer to the English ballad opera genre), the genre of all-sung opera had neither the number of outlets or committed artists to make it succeed. As with the English case, the lack of enthusiasm for Italian opera in the Czech lands has historically been seen as a collective national failing. Tantalising hints survive, for example, of elaborate productions as part of the festivities in...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-278)
  21. Index
    (pp. 279-314)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)