Album detail
Catalogue number: SU 4240-2

Although both the life and work of the composer Franz Xaver Richter were rather varied and eventful, neither of them has been fully researched. Together with Czech Ensemble Baroque, an early music ensemble playing on period instruments, Supraphon has been striving to make the work of this Mannheim- and Strasbourg-based composer with Czech roots accessible to wider public. Their joint venture consists in a series of three recordings, the latest of which we have talked about with the ensemble’s con­ductor Roman Válek.

After two albums with rather dismal music, this recording presents a completely different Richter – brighter and more joyful, if you will.
Absolutely! When conceiving the first recording we went backwards, so to say. We took Richter’s Requiem written in the bleak key of E-flat major, a piece that the composer pampered throughout all his life. In his time, tonality was viewed differently: nowadays, the E-flat minor key is one often used in blaring brass band music while in Richter’s time, , it referred to sadness or even mourning, same as, for example, C minor. That is where we took it from. Our second project was the Good Friday oratorio Descent from the Cross, and this time we wanted to intersperse those pieces with something antithetic – festive music in D major and an oboe concerto played. I hope this concept is going to work with listeners; for my part, I am very satisfied with the final shape of the recording.

There is another interesting aspect to the recording, which is the place where it came into being.
Yes, we managed to incorporate the unique and intact architecture of the church in Luleč (then Lileč), a village near Vyškov, Moravia. This place of pilgrimage is truly beautiful – when you enter the church, it is like entering Richter’s time. There does not seem to be any architectural intervention at all, which is why the space works very well for the recording of baroque music. If we want to combine the sound of the Mannheim orchestra with the oratorio music of the Strasbourg cathedral, St. Martin’s church in Luleč is a great place to do that.

Some of the compositions are premiered as recordings on period instruments…
If we speak about studio recording on a compact disc, they are. It is true that Richter’s Te Deum was recorded six years ago as a live concert for the television. However, our present project is the first to include studio recording with the necessary time and effort dedicated to it.

Let us look at the compositions on the disc. The trumpet symphony in D major is an example of the bright, jubilant music we talked about.
The D major key is a very jubilant one indeed. Besides, it is most convenient for playing on keyless baroque brass instruments, so it may be partly to this technical ease that the music works so well in D major. After all, there are other pieces written in D major on this CD, namely Te Deum and Exsultate. They represent the emotional level of joy and jubilation. The oboe concerto is a different matter, being composed in F major.

Is it possible to characterise the Te Deum (Richter’s second, by the way) as joyful music, just as the other compositions on the disc?
Richter’s second Te Deum was composed at the time when Strasbourg was regained by the French. I do not know whether local people responded to this development with joy or sadness. Behind the borderline formed by the river there is a French enclave, while on the opposite bank there are Germans who call the region Alsatia. Even nowadays, the citizens of Strasbourg are not quite certain about their identity. For some time they were French, then Germans, then Alsatians. Richter’s Te Deum, however, was undoubtedly commissioned by the Strasbourg cathedral for a spectacular celebration of the renewed French rule over the city. That is why the music must have been expected to be festive and jubilant – and the nature of Te Deum reflects that.

Te Deum is the longest composition on the disc. Let us introduce the soloists who participated in it.
I am proud of the fact that we were able to engage soloists recruited from the choir. That is a circumstance desired by every ensemble. Miroslav Procházka, for example, is both an excellent soloist and choir member. The same can be said about Pavla Radostová, and even Jaroslav Březina whom Czech audiences know very well from his roles in the National Theatre. In this music, it is crucial for soloists to merge in an organic way with the choral sections of the recording. This has major impact on the sound and prevents a situation when a soloist turns up as a kind of alien whose timbre, articulation or cadence is totally out of place in a given context. Richter’s music is written in a way that took this phenomenon of a “choir soloist” for granted. Our soloists are sought out and engaged by other ensembles as well – by “competition”, if you will – but this does not make me jealous. On the contrary, I am happy when Václav Luks, for example, invites some of our people to collaboration on his projects – it is in fact a confirmation of their qualities.

The last piece to mention is the above-mentioned oboe concerto composed in the F major key.
Here I would like to draw attention to the soloist Luise Haugk, the first oboist of the Akademie für alte Musik in Berlin, who is, however, an excellent ensemble and orchestral player too. In this recording, we have taken the liberty of dazzling tempos which enabled us to conceive certain melodic lines as embellishments. The result is surprising, brilliant, fantastic music. I could say that in some way we managed to evoke Mannheim where every musician was a virtuoso; when a composer wrote a concerto, he did so with a specific outstanding player in mind who took the audiences’ breath away. I hope our recording will have the same effect on the listeners. I believe it brings virtuoso and emotional performance while at the same time making a natural and relaxed impression.

How would you characterize the overall compositional style of František Xaver Richter?
Richter was criticized by his contemporaries to a certain extent, but the conservative elements that were the target of the criticism, namely sequences, certain baroque principles in preludes and the leading of voices, represent from today’s point of view a desirable symbiosis that works well. Baroque phrasing and articulation come together with a kind of decadence introduced by classicism. By incorporating or “conserving” sequences, ariosos and other elements in music that was already rococo or classicist in style, he created a wonderful blend. I personally find it more inspiring than pure rococo music that can be at times almost boring. I perceive Richter’s style as synthesized. His work includes themes that can be found both in instrumental music and oratorios. Throughout all his life, Richter worked with a repertoire close to his heart, his specific style unlike that of any other European provenience.