News from the Wirth Institute

Since the outbreak of the pandemic and the closing of the University of Alberta to the public, the Wirth Institute has moved its programs online.

These include a curated series of recorded presentations of music composed by central Europeans. Last week, Franz Sabo, the founding director of the Institute and a retired specialist on the histories of central Europe in the eighteenth century, posted a selection featuring Baroque-era composers.

The Baroque was above all the artistic style of a confessionally highly charged culture, and of a strictly segregated and economically skewed social order.  It is, of course, well known that the emergence of the Baroque style in the late sixteenth century was integrally tied to the Catholic Counter-Reformation, with its sensual, plastic, emotional, dramatic, this-worldly affirmation of the Roman Church in the face of the Protestant challenge. One dimension of this movement, recognized by the Catholic Church early on was the role music could play in the process. It was precisely the confessional dimension that led to the intense cultivation of music at every level from parish churches, through monastic houses, schools and universities, noble households to the Imperial Court in Vienna itself. Some orders, such as the Jesuits, the Piarists and the Premonstratensians cultivated dramatic vocal music, and most of its members had a thorough musical education.  Careful attention was paid to musical education and the best Jesuit and Piarist establishments rivaled the niveau and function of later-day musical conservatories.

We see classic examples of this in two Czech composers in the list below: Alberich Mazak (Alberik Mazák) (1609-1661) and Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský (1684-1742), the former from the early and the latter from the late Baroque.  Both came from humble backgrounds, studied at Catholic universities and eventually became ordained priests. Both excelled in the motet form – indeed, Černohorský’s Laudetur Jesus Christus is often cited as one of the finest examples of the kind in the late Baroque.  A similar dynamic can also be followed among the nobility. Adam Václav Michna of Otradovic (c. 1600-1676), a noble graduate of a Jesuit College, became the most important Czech composer and poet of the early Baroque. The majority of his creative effort was dedicated to sacred music, including songs and Christmas carols in the Czech language. The deeply religious and Jesuit educated Hungarian Prince Pál Esterházy (1635-1713), a successful general in the Habsburg armies and Palatine (Viceroy) of the Hungary, was also an accomplished amateur musician and composer whose cycle of 55 sacred cantatas, Harmonia Caelestis, is his most notable work. The most outstanding Polish composer of the high Baroque Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (1665-1734), a graduate of both the Jesuit Universities of Prague and Vienna, entered the Catholic seminary in Kraków, where he was ordained in 1692 and where he became the curate and conductor of the Cathedral orchestra. Gorczycki’s Completorium should be categorized as belonging to both vocal and instrumental concert forms. The composer operates here consummately in both polyphonic and homophonic textures, making use of a wide-ranging vocal apparatus from solo displays for each voice, duets, trios, and finally through full polyphony in the choir.

Many composers of the era began their careers as singers or instrumentalists who found compositional success in the employ of ecclesiastical princes. Pavel Josef Vejvanovský (1633-1693), a graduate of the Jesuit University of Opava (Troppau) was one of the greatest trumpet virtuosos of the age. He found life-long employ in the court of the Prince-Bishop of Olomouc (Olmütz) at the princely residence in Kroměříž (Kremsier) where he ran and directed the Bishop’s musical establishment.  Similarly, the Tyrolian Benedikt Anton Aufschnaiter (1665-1742) began his career as a musician in an orchestra in Vienna before securing an appointment as Kapellmeister for Cardinal Lamberg, the ruler of the Bishopric of Passau. The best known and among the most widely performed Baroque composers today, who found employ with episcopal establishments was Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). Biber began his career in Graz before moving on to the musical establishment of the Prince-Bishop of Olomouc, which he left illegally to enter the employ of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. During Biber’s lifetime, his music was known and imitated throughout Europe. In the late 18th century the music historian Charles Burney named him the best violin composer of the 17th century. Unlike most composers for the violin, Biber did not limit himself to music for the instrument. He was also a prolific composer of sacred vocal works. Among the polychoral works, Missa Salisburgensis  (1682) is the best known.

Of course, employ at a major secular court was even more prestigious.  We know little about the early years of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745), who only recently has been recognized as a composer of considerable stature. He received his musical training at the Jesuit University in Prague and began his career as a double bass player.  In 1710 he found employ with the musical establishment of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden.  After further studies in Vienna between 1716 and 1719 he returned to Dresden, succeeding to Vice-Kapellmeister in 1721 and remaining there until his death. Zelenka’s pieces are characterized by a very daring compositional structure with a highly spirited harmonic invention and complex counterpoint.

Naturally, the pinnacle of such appointments was with the Court of the Emperor himself in Vienna.  The Habsburg emperors of the Baroque period were all great lovers of music, amateur musicians and even amateur composers. They tended to hold their court composers in high regard. This was certainly true of Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667), the son of a tenor in the Court Chapel in Württemberg, who at the age of 18 found employ as a singer in the Imperial Chapel in Vienna.  Though in the court service of the emperor, Froberger spent many years travelling throughout Europe, before returning to Vienna where he died. Froberger was deeply saddened by Emperor Ferdinand III’s death on 2 April 1657 and wrote a lamentation dedicated to his memory, which remains among his best-known works.

The two most famous native-son composers of the Baroque era at the Court of the Habsburg Emperors in Vienna were Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620-1680) and Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741).  We know little of Schmelzer’s early years, but he seems to have arrived in Vienna during the 1630s, and remained a composer and musician at the Habsburg Court for the rest of his life. Schmelzer was officially appointed court violinist in 1649 and Kapellmeister in 1679. Unfortunately, he fell victim of the plague early in 1680, and died in Prague, where the Viennese court moved in an attempt to evade the epidemic. Schmelzer was one of the most important violinists of the period and was the leading Austrian composer of his generation. He enjoyed a close relationship with Emperor Leopold I, who raised Schmelzer to the ranks of nobility in 1673.  Fux was born to a peasant family in a provincial town in Styria.  He was accepted at the Jesuit University in Graz, where his musical talent became apparent. By the 1690s he was in Vienna, and attracted the attention of Emperor Leopold with some masses he composed; the emperor was sufficiently impressed by them to assist him with his career after this point. In 1698, Leopold hired him as court composer. He is most famous as the author of Gradus ad Parnassum, which has become the single most influential book on counterpoint, much prized by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Hindemith. 

Online Performances

Musical selections curated by our founding director, Professor Franz Szabo. 

The selections for this posting have been constrained by what is available in live performances on YouTube. Listeners are encouraged to follow up on the composers mentioned with other, audio-only listings.

Alberich Mazak (Alberik Mazák)
Born: 1609, Ratibor, Silesia (now Racibórz, Poland)
Died: 9 May 1661, Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Lower Austria

Sancta Maria ora pro nobis
Altöttinger Kapellsingknaben und Mädchenkantorei
Herbert Hager, conductor
Live from the Basilika St. Anna, Altötting, Bavaria, 14 July 2011 

Johann Jakob Froberger
Born: 19 May 1616, Stuttgart, Principality of Württemberg
Died: 7 May 1667, Vienna

Lamentation on the Death of Emperor Ferdinand III
Hannah Brewer, harpsichord
Live from a house concert in Portland, Oregon, 22 October 2016 

Toccata XX in A Minor
Duo Coloquintes
Alice Julien-Laferrière, baroque violin
Mathilde Vialle, Viola da Gamba
Live from Studio 106 of the Maison de la radio, Paris, 17 October 2016 

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
Born: c. 1620–1623, Scheibbs, Lower Austria
Died:  March 1680, Prague

Sonata No. 4 à 6 in A Minor, (from Sacro-Profanus Concentus Musicus)
Voices of Music,
Elizabeth Blumenstock, baroque violin; Carla Moore, baroque violin;
Maxine Nemerovski, baroque violin; Kati Kyme, baroque viola;
Lisa Grodin, baroque viola; Farley Pearce, violone;
William Skeen, five string baroque cello; David Tayler, archlute;
Hanneke van Proosdij, baroque organ
performed on original instruments,
Live from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco, 9 March 2013 

Die Fechtschule (The Fencing School)
Ars Lyrica Houston
Matthew Dirst, Artistic Director
Live from the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Houston, Texas, 8 August 2015 

TENET Vocal Artists, Dark Horse Consort, and Bach Collegium San Diego
Hank Heijink, theorbo; Daniel Zuluaga, lute
Ruben Valenzuela, chamber organ
Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski, violins
Live from Park Avenue Christian Church, New York, 14 Decembet 2013 

Lamento sopra la morte di Ferdinando III
(Lament on the death of Emperor Ferdinand III)
Sigiswald Kuijken, baroque violin
JungHae Kim, harpsichord
Jin Kim and Noah Strick, violins
Farley Pierce, bassed Violin
Live from Mary Magdalen Church, Berkeley California, 10 April 2016 

Sonata “La Carioletta”
Quicksilver Baroque Ensemble
Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski, violins and directors
Greg Ingles, trombone; Dominic Teresi, dulcian;
Avi Stein, harpsichord; Charles Weaver, lute
Recording by Daniel Rumley, 13 February 2019 

Pavel Josef Vejvanovský
Born: c. 1633 or 1639, Hukvaldy (Hochwald), Moravia
Died: 24 July 1693, Kroměříž (Kremsier), Moravia

Sonata Vespertina
Vit Komarek and Vitezslav Novotny, trumpet soloists
Brass orchestra of Music School in Zábřeh
Luboš Lachman, conductor
Live from St. Bartholomeo´s church, Zábřeh, Moravia, 21 December 2014 

Offertorium ad duos choros
McGill Trombone Choir
James Ryan, arranger and conductor
Live from Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill University, Montreal, 6 April 2014 

Pál Esterházy
Born: 8 September 1635, Kismarton, Hungary (now Eisenstadt, Austria)
Died: 26 March 1713, Kismarton, Hungary (now Eisenstadt, Austria)

Harmonia Caelestis (selections)
Choir and soloists of the Reformed College of Debrecen
Sándor Berkesi, conductor
Recorded at the Debrecen Reformed Theological University, 2014 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
Born: 12 August 1644, Wartenberg (now Stráž pod Ralskem), Bohemia
Died: 3 May 1704, Salzburg

Missa Salisburgensis à 53 voci in C Major (Salzburg Mass)
Collegium 1704
Collegium Vocale
Václav Luks, conductor
Live from the Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Festspiele), 27 July 2016 

Missa Alleluia in C Major à 36 voci (Alleluja Mass)
Josef Pascal Aur, Simon Paul Bernhard, Daniel Mandel, boy sopranos
Alois Mühlbacher, boy alto, Markus Forster, alt/alto Bernd Lambauer, tenor Gerhard Kenda, bas/bass Ulfried Staber, bas/bass
Ars Antiqua Austria
Gunar Letzbor, conductor
Live from TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 3 September 2014
Utrecht Early Music Festival 

Sonata (Concerto) in C Major for Trumpet and Strings
Voices of Music Ensemble
Live from St Mark’s Lutheran, San Francisco, 9 March 2013 

Sonata à 3
Quicksilver Baroque Ensemple
Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski, violins; Greg Ingles, sackbut;
Avi Stein, organ; Charles Weaver, theorbo
Live from Corpus Christi Church, New York, 19 November 2017 

Battalia Á 10
Voices of Music
David Tayler and Hanneke van Proosdij, Directors
Live from St Mark’s Lutheran, San Francisco, 16 December 2017 

Violin Sonata No. 5 in E Minor
Elizabeth Blumenstock, baroque violin; William Skeen, viola da gamba;
David Tayler, archlute & Hanneke van Proosdij, harpsichord.
Live from St Mark’s Lutheran, San Francisco, 30 January 2016 

Johann Joseph Fux
Born: c. 1660, Hirtenfeld, Styria, Austria
Died: 13 February 1741, Vienna

Kaiserrequiem (Requiem for the Emperor)
Vox Luminis
Zsuzsi Tóth, Sara Jäggi, Elke Janssens, Maria Bernius, sopranos;
Barnabás Heygi, Jan Kullmann, altos
Olivier Berten, Robert Buckland – tenors
Matthias Lutze, Lionel Meunier, basses
Scorpio Collectief
Veronika Skuplik, Stefano Rossi, violins; Johannes Frisch, tenor violin;
Josue Melendez, Frithjof Smith, cornett, cornett muto;
Simen van Mechelen, Claire McIntyre, trombones; Carles Cristobal, bassoon; Matthias Müller, bass violin; Kris Verhelst, organ
Live from TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 7 September 2014
Utrecht Early Music Festival 2014 

Overture D minor E 108
Ensemble PhilidOr
Mira Glodeanu, Director
Live from the Salle Thélème, Tours, France, 17 April 2015 

Ave Regina caelorum, Motet, K. 208
Laetare turba caelitum, Motet, E 80
Karoline Pilcz, Soprano
Ensemble Fiori Armonici
Vladimir Prado, conductor
Live from the Spitalkirche, Mödling bei Wien, 22 September 2017 

Adam Václav Michna z Otradovic
Born: c. 1600, Jindřichův Hradec (Neuhaus), Bohemia
Died: 2 November 1676, Jindřichův Hradec (Neuhaus), Bohemia

Archanjelské Ave (Hail the Archangel)
Bona Nota Orchestra
Live from the the Cadastral Office in Pardubice, Bohemia, 22 December 2011
Christmas concert of the Bona Nota orchestra 

Hle přijde Pán a Rosu dejte ó nebesa
(Behold, the Lord cometh, and giveth a Rose, O heavens)
Čeští madrigalisté
Veronika Hádková, director
Jan Thuri – oboe, Jan Hádek – violin, Barbora Mráčková – violin,
Petra Feistauerová – viola, Ondřej Michal – cello, Filip Dvořák – harpsichord.
Live from Bethlehem Chapel, Prague, 18 December 2013 

O narození pana Krista
(About the birth of the Lord Christ)
 Canticum Camerale
Eduard Tomaštík, conductor
Live from the Church of St. Nicholas, Zlín, Moravia, 9 January 2015 

Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki
Born: ca. 1665, Rozbark, Silesia (then part of the Kingdom of Bohemia)
Died: 30 April 1734, Kraków, Poland

Laetatus sum
USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia
Rotem Gilbert, Director
Live from the USC Thornton School of Music, October 2019 

Completorium (Selections)
Marzena Michałowska, soprano
Piotr Olech, counter tenor
Maciej Gocman, tenor
Józef Frakstein, bass
Poznań Chamber Choir
Concerto Köln
Jurek Dybał conductor
Live from the Church Discalced Carmelites, Poznań, 22 May 2011
1. Cum invocarem 
2. In te Domine speravi 
3. Qui habitat 
4. Ecce nunc benedicte 
6. In manus tuas 
7.Nunc dimittis 

Benedikt Anton Aufschnaiter
Born: 20-21 February 1665, Kitzbühel, Tyrol
Died (buried): 24 January 1742, Passau (Bishopric of Passau, now Bavaria)

Memnon sacer ab Oriente, Vesper Op. 5
Markus Forster, alto; Bernd Lambauer, tenor;
Gerhard Kenda, bass Ulfried Staber, bass
St. Florianer Sängerknaben
Ars Antiqua Austria
Gunar Letzbor, conductor
Live from TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 31 August 2014
Utrecht Early Music Festival 

Jan Dismas Zelenka
Born: 16 October 1679, Louňovice pod Blaníkem (Launiowitz), Bohemia
Died: 23 December 1745, Dresden, Electorate of Saxony

Te Deum in D major for two choirs (ZWV 146, 1731)
Hana Blazikova and Dora Pavlikova, sopranos
Marketa Cukrova and Kamila Mazalova, altos
Sebastian Monti, tenor; Tomas Kral, baritone
Collegium 1704
Václav Luks, conductor
Live from the Abbatiale Saint-Robert, France, 20 August 2011 

Trio-sonata No.6 in C minor
Carlos Del Ser, oboe 1 (left); Lucas Macias Navarro, oboe 2 (right);
Diego Chenna, bassoon; Božo Paradžik, double bass; Christof Winker, harpsicord
Live from the Christuskirche, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, 24 November 2017 

Missa Divi Xaverii ZWV 12
Hana Blažíková, soprano; Kamila Mazalová, alto;
Václav Čížek, tenor; Tomáš Král, bass
Collegium 1704 & Collegium Vocale 1704
Václav Luks, conductor
Live from TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 29 August 2014
Utrecht Early Music Festival 

Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský
Born: 16 February 1684, Nymburk (Nimburg) Bohemia
Died: 1 July 1742, Graz, Styria (Austria)

Laudetur Jesus Christus
Victoria Ensemble
Viktorie Dugranpere, artistic leader
Live from the Mirror Chapel of the Clementinum, Prague, 2018 

For more information about the Wirth Institute’s online programs:


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