Seven years ago, in 2011, Judy Proctor decided the Lonarc Oboe Trio should try to perform and record all the oboe trios commissioned in late 18th century by the celebrated aristocratic Austro-Bohemian art patrons, the princely Schwarzenbergs, who in the 1780s and 90s had supported Wenth, Triebensee and the Teimer brothers. We met in January 2011 to play through all these trios to see if they would be worth recording and performing. (To our delight we discovered that they were all very much over-looked oboe trio masterpieces. JP)
This small group of enormously talented oboe and cor anglais players – who also composed as well as played, had not only inspired their patron, but had captured the imagination of Beethoven and many other contemporary composers as well such as Krommer, Wranitsky and Pössinger.
Judy wanted to know more about the origins of these early oboe trios – who had been capable of performing the cor anglais parts? Why were these early classical gems of oboe and cor anglais chamber music that contained some of the most virtuosic writing for these instruments to date, not more celebrated? Why did the oboe community not know more about how they came about?
Lonarc Oboe Trio would aim to throw a spotlight on these late 18th century trios and then also aim to create a 2nd golden era this century – with performances, recordings, workshops, research of the 18th century urtext scores, publishing new LOT editions and then also commissioning new contemporary works.
And it would all be captured in a documentary film.
The Dream Coming True
Fast forward to 3rd July 2018, a long day for the Lonarc Oboe Trio.
Lunch in Marble Arch and final afternoon rehearsal of our Festival programme for the following day in the Czech Republic, then straight off to Heathrow airport for an 8pm flight to Prague. (Owen checking the football results of the Croatia - England game the moment we landed c 11.15pm JP). From here an over night taxi whisked us south to the Bohemian city of Český Krumlov.
No, I’d never heard of it either.
Anyway it was dark when we arrived and after the taxi had struggled through some very narrow 15th century streets, we all went straight to bed. 2 a.m.
Tomorrow was going to be another long day.
4th July, and we’re all waking up in the Hotel Babylon on the banks of the rippling Vltava river, sparkling in the early morning sunshine, precisely as Smetana portrays it in Ma Vlast. The fast flowing, chattering Vltava more or less encircles the perfectly preserved renaissance city of Český
Krumlov. Towering above it all, looking imposingly down from high rock on the north side is the soaring edifice of the Schwarzenberg castle. This is where we would be performing in the evening.
Wow, what a sight!
We set off for breakfast at Hotel Dvořák (another of many Czech musical connections), marvelling as we walked the cobbled streets of this most elegant 15th century Bohemian city. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and could easily be a film set.
We had a mid-morning appointment up at the castle archive which houses 18th century manuscript books of music, including Haydn string quartets, Mozart’s 13 wind serenade, numerous Besozzi oboe concerti and — exhilarating for us — copious sheaves of original and fascinating material for oboe trio. (I was also keen to see as much of the wind ensemble music composed for 2 Oboe, 2 Cor Anglais, 2 Horns and 2 Bassoons. JP). We spent two excited hours in this musical treasure chest, feverishly copying what we could.
After this we had a short rehearsal in the castle. We’d just been handling 220 year old originals of the very same Triebensee, Wenth and Krommer trios we were about to perform. The original musical script and markings open up a whole new sound world, so the question now was: how much of what we had just discovered could we incorporate into our evening’s performance?
(I used the staccato articulation Wenth had clearly indicated - which the Edition Knuellsin editor had ignored by slurring it all - on 8 x Fsharp/G demi-semi quavers that ran from halfway through the 2nd quaver beat into the first half of the 4th quaver beat in the opening bar of his Var 3 of the Paisiello Variations – and it was a revelation; not only was it possible at that speed but it clarified exactly where the quaver beat was for the 1st & 2nd Oboes - so no stumbling down at the end of the phrase. I guess the Teimer brothers had had similar difficulties in that passage so Wenth cleverly put in the detached articulation. I felt I was having a conversation with a teacher about how to deal with a problematic passage. A conversation with an oboist from 220 years ago! JP)
This felt so exhilarating. (Yes! JP)
Beyond this, it’s of course rich food for many more months of careful study and assimilation, editing, rehearsing, recording and performing to come. And to think all this grew out of the Schwarzenberg family’s patronage, had all begun in this castle and this city. Maybe a 1790s audience including Prince Schwarzenberg had even listened to the famous Teimer brothers playing from the archive parts we had just seen and in the very room we would be performing in later that evening. (LOTP will be publishing LOT editions of these 18th century trios and wind ensemble works. JP)
After a well deserved tea time rest, we returned through Český Krumlov crossing the town’s only square and threading through narrow streets back up to the castle for our 7.30 o’clock performance. (Passing by a local grocers to pick up pre-concert energy rations - bananas for Owen and myself and dark chocolate for Joe. JP) Our programme was: Triebensee C Major, Beethoven’s Mozart Variations, Krommer F Majorand Wenth’s Pasiello Variations. Like many of our musical antecedents, we performed in the castle’s beautifully painted 18th century Music Room, where drapes are expressly forbidden in order to preserve the shimmering acoustic. The room overlooks the forested hills to the north of the city and by the end of our evening concert, the view, now a Caspar David Friedrich scene, was bathed in a red sunset after the storm that had broken during the Beethoven Variations.
As an encore after our programme in homage to Český Krumlovand the Schwarzenberg’s musical legacy, we played James Horan’s brilliant arrangement of Benjamin Britten’s Playful Pizzicato, our small gift from England. The organisers, including Hana and Martin, and audience all seemed very happy and we adjourned to a local tavern for some typical Bohemian beer and dinner.
Deep thanks to everyone at Český Krumlov and its 2018 Music Festival and cheers from Lonarc Trio!
(It was a magical experience - Děkuji Haně a Martinovi - THANKYOU Hana & Martin. JP)
Then it was late night drinks back at the Vltava riverside bar of the Hotel Babylon, while some youngsters danced and let off fireworks on the opposite bank … Bed!
5th July and it’s breakfast back at Hotel Dvořák, then coffee together by the ubiquitous Vltava, while people-watching the steady stream of colourful punting parties on the river below. This was a morning for tourism and relaxation and Český Krumlov is the perfect place for this it turns out. Owen went off to buy presents for his family, and Judy and I admired some beautiful and unusual green-black gemstones in a jeweller’s window. They are apparently moravite, a local stone from an ancient meteorite, and found uniquely here in Moravia. Definitely something to save up for before our next visit.
All too soon it was the taxi ride back to Prague, where Judy had booked a tea time meeting at the glamorous Hotel Augustine with none other than Karel Philippe Schwarzenberg himself, HSH 12th Prince Schwarzenberg.
Beforehand, Judy, Owen and I strolled over the famous 14th century Charles Bridge which spans the Vltava, here deeper, slower, wider than down south. As Judy was explaining to me all over again the fascinating history of the original oboe trio with Johann Wenth and the Teimer brothers, I pictured these men walking together like us over this same bridge in the 1790s. It was a fantasy tinged with sadness, because the wonderful legacy Wenth and Triebensee had handed down to them, both in terms of music and oboe playing, had been cut short by the younger men’s untimely deaths. And with Mozart’s wonderful oboist Friedrich Ramm fading from the musical scene at the same time, it would be more than a century before the oboe began to make a come back.
Back at the Augustine Hotel, we were ushered into the outdoor atrium where Karel Schwarzenberg was seated. From the off he was charming, kind, quick witted, amusing and endlessly knowledgeable. Like a character from Proust, he talked as easily of the King of Sweden,of how his macabre family crest reflects his ancestors’ rôle in repelling the Ottoman advance on Vienna in 1683, of his personal experience of the arrival of Russian communists in 1948 or that he’d gone to the Rolling Stones in concert the night before.
Of course we also talked about our visit to wonderful Český Krumlov, our Festival concert in his family’s castle and our extremely fruitful visit to the music archive. Happily the Czech communists were cultural snobs he told us, that’s why his castle and his archive survived. Other Eastern European countries had not been so fortunate. He pointed us to his other family adminstrative archive in Třeboň, and we wonder what fresh treasures it may hold. He also suggested that we should try to perform in some of the other Schwarzenberg houses elsewhere.
(I also talked to Karel about his ancestor Prince Fürst Joseph Adam Johann Nepomuk Franz de Paula Joachim Judas Thaddäus Abraham von Schwarzenberg (1680-1732) who was a keen boar hunter – did this mean that the Schwarzenberg’s employed Oboe de Caccia players? Was this why they then chose to use Cor Anglais players (instead of Clarinet players) when they formed their infamous Wind Harmonie in 1771? JP)
Then it was warm goodbyes, and soon we were in a taxi again, this time bound for Prague airport and the plane home. At Gatwick Owen got the only train left for Brighton and Judy and I had a true British Rail welcome: all trains to London cancelled! Luckily we joined a group taxi to Victoria and I stayed over night back in Marble Arch. Bed at 2.30 a.m. after a completely exhausting and completely inspiring round trip! (Joe didn’t go to sleep until well after 3.30am he was still so inspired looking at the urtext editions of the oboe trios captured on our phones JP).
The following morning, now 6 July, Judy proudly showed me the impressively signed and crested (A crow pecking at the severed head of a Turk! JP) certificate Karel Schwarzenberg had already sent her, proclaiming him as Honorary Patron of the Lonarc Oboe Trio.
Good work Judy! (Well none of this 'Dream' would be possible without you and Owen (and James), so THANKYOU to each one of you for your incredible musicianship and 'fraternal' support and care - it is special )
Incidentally, when we had told the Augustine Hotel concierge Karel Schwarzenberg was expecting us, he asked how we knew him. When Judy explained, he replied in a sincere and reverent tone: “You are lucky - he is a very good man”. Karel, now in his 80s, is still a very active figure in Czech politics and is obviously much loved by his native countrymen. What a privilege to have met such a person! And to have his support.
Sadly our dear friend Marc Schlossman, a documentary film maker, wasn’t able to join us as planned, to capture all these Bohemian marvels.
Ah well, that part of the dream will just have to wait until our next trip.
Watch this space!