The internationally acclaimed Czech soprano and harpist Hana Blažíková has made a remarkable Supraphon album containing Czech Marian music. Titled A Lily Among Thorns, it draws the listener into the world of poetic hymns praising the Virgin Mary, which formed a significant proportion of 17th-century Czech music. The album will be released on 23 September 2022, on CD and in digital formats.
The recording juxtaposes pieces by Adam Václav Michna of Otradovice with works by Alessandro Grandi, Vincenzo Albrici, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber and Samuel Capricornus, all of them composers often in close contact with the Jesuits who drew inspiration from the spirituality practised by the Society of Jesus. Their lives and work were closely linked with the Kingdom of Bohemia, where their music was regularly played. Hana Blažíková made the album with the renowned Collegium Marianum ensemble, headed by Jana Semerádová.
“I first encountered Adam Michna’s songs at a tender age. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I have always had an affection for his music, and even feel somewhat sentimental about it today. Back in my childhood, Michna’s songs were often played at home at Christmas and Easter, and I myself used to sing them at a village church accompanied on the organ by my grandma, and also as a little soloist with her choir. Later on, as a primary school pupil, I was singing Michna’s songs with Pavel Jurkovič and Pavla Sovová. When I was in the third grade, Pavla Sovová rehearsed with us the entire Czech Lute, which our class went on to perform at the church in Bechyně. The next time I encountered Michna’s pieces was when, by now an adult, I performed them with ensembles specialised in Baroque music. By and large, Michna’s works have accompanied me throughout my life, and they have been among my favourite repertoire to this day. I must, however, point out that Michna was not just a composer of songs, for which he is known best (and we should not forget that he was a brilliant poet too!), but also of more challenging liturgical pieces for large groups of musicians. He was one of the greatest early-Baroque composers in Bohemia,” Hana Blažíková said.
When it comes to the works by other composers featured on the album, Blažíková chose them primarily with the intention to place Michna in a period context, as well as, in part, with the aim to balance vocal numbers with instrumental music, thus allowing the listener to focus fully for a while on the extraordinary art of the Collegium Marianum members. “I have performed with Collegium Marianum for longer than with any other ensemble. And I think our collaboration clearly shows it. Jana Semerádová and I understand each other on both a musical and personal level. The programmes of the concerts we give together are tailored to all those involved, and I, as a singer, really cherish our performances. I would term our co-operation as ‘family-like’ – not just because we know each other so well, but also because my husband Jan Krejča, a theorbist, has regularly performed with the ensemble too,” Hana Blažíková added.