H+H and the Apotheosis of the Dance in Beethoven's Symphony No. 7
Sunday, April 24, 2022
On WCRB In Concert with the Handel and Haydn Society, Czech conductor Václav Luks also leads lesser-known music by Voříšek and Bologne, on demand.
Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra
Václav Luks, conductor
Joseph BOLOGNE Overture to The Anonymous Lover
Jan Václav VOŘÍŠEK Symphony in D
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7
This concert is no longer available on demand.
Hear an interview with conductor Václav Luks previewing this concert with the audio player above.
Alan McLellan Václav Luks. Thank you so much for coming and for being willing to have a little interview this afternoon. We are so glad that you are performing with the Handel and Haydn society. This program of Joseph Bologne, Václav Voříšek, and Beethoven is a wonderful combination. Is this your first time to Boston?
Václav Luks Yes, it's my first time and I'm very enthusiastic about the city. It's a really beautiful, beautiful atmosphere, I enjoyed it very much. And I enjoyed working with the Handel and Haydn Society, it's a wonderful orchestra. At the beginning, I was impressed about the long tradition and the reputation of the orchestra and sometimes long traditions are not always a good thing, but to here you have both. You have this reputation, this tradition and the very young spirit of all the musicians through the generations. It's fantastic. They kept this the spirit of 200 years ago.
Alan McLellan So your career, has it been involved in historically informed performance for most of your career, would you say?
Václav Luks Yes. I mean, I studied the horn and piano is just normal modern instruments. And then for two years, I was a member of the Orchestra of the National Theater in Prague. And then after the Revolution in 1989, it was, of course, it was huge. It was something really new, the world was open. And then I decided to go to study early music to Basel, Switzerland and already before I had started to play harpsichord. And that was my, let's say, first step into early music. And then 15 years later, I founded my own orchestra in Prague, Collegium 1704. And since 2005, we are on the stage in Europe and I'm playing everywhere and we have our own concert cycle at the Rudolfinum in Czech Philharmonic Hall and the yeah, it's just a big pleasure, and I feel home there in Prague with my musicians. But I have to say, immediately I felt the same here. I feel home also in Boston with musicians from the Handel and Haydn Society.
Alan McLellan That's great. It's so good to to have you here and and to have a Czech conductor performing Czech music. But I wanted to start talking about the Joseph Bologne piece. He was quite a character, a celebrity in his era. Do you have a special affinity for his music?
Václav Luks His music speaks a very special language because he's standing between the French style and the new Italian style. The music from that time from France is not very well known, and I'm very happy to play his music because it was also, for me, something new. You can hear in his music, he is an artist with a great imagination. He was overall a violin virtuoso, and he has a nickname "Black Mozart" because he was somebody who was very present on the music scene in France at his time. Unfortunately, his music is almost forgotten, and so I'm very happy and proud to to present his music in Boston.
Alan McLellan There's kind of a connection between him and Mozart, is there not, where they actually lived together in the same house for a few days or something.
Václav Luks In Paris, yes exactly
Alan McLellan In Paris, yeah. And this opera, L'Amant Anonyme, is the The Anonymous Lover.
Václav Luks Let's say that's like Italian symphonia in with the French parfum. This mix, this blend between French and Italian style makes his music very interesting, very attractive.
Alan McLellan I don't know whether you think of Bologne as an outsider because he was Black. You may, but I was thinking that perhaps he and Voříšek had something in common because in Vienna, perhaps a Czech composer might have been a bit of an outsider.
Václav Luks I don't think so, because the Czech community in the in Vienna was very important. We have a lot of Bohemian composers of that time, like Vanhal, Kozeluch, Voříšek, and many others. But I will tell you, it's an interesting thing because there's a one link between the Voříšek and Boston. As Voříšek started his career he was employed as a music educator in the Prince Lobkowicz family, and Lobkowicz was a very important family in Bohemia for music because they supported Gluck and Beethoven and many other composers. The Lobkowicz family escaped from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War because of the communists. And then after 1989, they came back to Prague. But the second hometown of the Lobkowicz family is Boston. They are based here, so that's a very interesting story. But back to Voříšek in Vienna!
Alan McLellan So with Voříšek, the connection with him and Beethoven is fascinating to me because didn't he idolize Beethoven?
Václav Luks Yeah, yeah. He grew up in Prague, and then he moved to Vienna. We don't know exactly where they met, it's very unclear. But I think even more interesting than his connection to Beethoven is his connection to Schubert, because I'm really sure that the Schubert knew his music because Voříšek was overall a piano virtuoso, and he composed a collection of impromptus before Schubert composed his collections. And when you hear the music by Voříšek and after that hear Schubert, the inspiration by Voříšek in Schubert's music is absolutely clear.
Alan McLellan So Voříšek influenced Schubert when he wrote these impromptus.
Václav Luks Yeah. And one more interesting story. Voříšek got the job as an organ player in the Hofkapelle, the chapel of the emperor. He was in competition with Schubert, and Voříšek won the competition. So, he was a really great musician. Unfortunately, he died very young at the age of 34 years.
Alan McLellan As happened with many.
Václav Luks Schubert, Mozart, yeah.
Alan McLellan So there are links in this program that weave through, aren't there? Tell me of how you feel about conducting Beethoven. As a horn player, you must have experienced it from the other side. Particularly the the Seventh Symphony.
Václav Luks The Seventh Symphony is very demanding for four horns. For everyone it's very demanding. It's my favorite symphony. But it's a power piece. And as a horn player, you need to really, not only power in the sense of playing strong, but also to be able to make music in all circumstances, even when the music is very strong and very fast, you have to be very concentrated for small details. The small details make Beethoven's music, not the fortissimo and sforzandi, but the focus for the small details. When you when you see the score by Beethoven, there's so much information. And we know from letters from Beethoven to his friends, how important all these indications in the score are. So we have both sides. It is a very demanding to play. And at the same time, to keep the focus [to give] the small, small details more justice and all these important things that we can see in the score by Beethoven.
Alan McLellan So those details really make up the whole.
Václav Luks Yeah, all the small differences, which you can rarely hear with modern orchestras, because for period instruments, you have much more opportunity to create some details with articulation and all these details are written in the music. The difference between sforzando and fortepiano and and the normal accent and the sforzando in context of piano, forte. All these are the incredibly complex universe of Beethoven's language.
Alan McLellan And dynamics are just essential in Beethoven. Tell me what what makes the Handel and Haydn Society a distinctive performing organization for you as a person coming from Europe or from the whole European scene? Do you do you think of it in a certain context?
Václav Luks Sure, sure. When I'm coming from Europe, I know, of course, the history of America is very young. And the same institution was just founded at the beginning of 19th century is somehow fascinating now because I know that the society ordered pieces by Beethoven.
Alan McLellan He didn't deliver, unfortunately.
Václav Luks Like many others compositions! But the culture is very important, I think, for America, because of course, the US is a very strong country with a strong politic, with a strong presence worldwide. But to show that there is also a cultural space, which is very intense and very important and has a long tradition is very important, I think. To show that you are able to build fantastic architecture, to have Harvard University, to have a tradition of jazz music and all of that is important. But that in the US you have also an incredible tradition since the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century in classical music is a very important message also, and a very well done job by the Handel and Haydn Society. I think that it's really one of the most important messages you can send in to the world.
Alan McLellan Václav Luks, thank you so much for being here and for talking this afternoon.
Václav Luks Thank you for the invitation.