Classes tap enthusiasm for Baroque

The Prague Post

French instructors make inaugural visit to Prague

Baroque music continues to blossom in Prague with a visit this week from instructors of the esteemed Académie Internationale de Sablé, a French institute that specializes in teaching early music and historical dance. In cooperation with Prague’s Collegium Marianum, they will be teaching about 70 students techniques in singing, dancing and playing period instruments like the viola de gamba and harpsichord.

Both Collegium Marianum and the French Institute, which is co-sponsoring the four days of instruction, have high hopes for this inaugural project.

“Our aim is not only to present French music, but to boost the potential of local musicians,” French Institute Director Olga Poivre d’Arvor says. “We want to do a dialogue between both countries’ musicians.”

“There isn’t much opportunity to study early music here,” says Žaneta Novácková, the Collegium Marianum liaison for the project. “This could be a tradition, to promote Prague as a place for early music.”

Roughly two-thirds of the students who signed up for the courses are Czech. The rest come from a variety of European countries, including Poland, Denmark, Norway and France.

Organizers cite a number of reasons why the courses filled up so quickly: the Académie’s reputation, affordable tuition, the Prague location — but, most importantly, the quality of the teachers.

“The harpsichord teacher [Francoise Lengell] is very well-known, and [viola de gamba teacher] Marianne Muller played at our Festival of Early Music in 2005,” Novácková says. “But the Baroque dance class had the most applications.”

So many, in fact, that the planned class size of 10 was expanded to 20 — and, then, with only professional dancers admitted. They will be practicing at Tyršuv dum, while the musicians study at Collegium Marianum.

It will be an intense four days. Students will take both individual and group lessons, and, at the end of the day, they’ll switch, with the musicians taking dance lessons and the dancers getting lectures on Baroque music.

“The schedule is the same as at the Académie in Sablé,” Novácková explains. “Baroque music is very attached to dance. The musicians have to feel the dances, to know how they moved, to know how to play. The music was written for dance.”

This will mark the first time the Académie is holding classes outside the French city. This is great news for both musicians and fans of Baroque music in Prague.

“Here, we are still in the beginning stages of educating both the public and musicians,” says Jana Semerádová, a noted flute player and artistic director of Collegium Marianum. “For musicians to study or play Baroque music is very special. In the Czech Republic, there isn’t a department of early music.”

Music schools abroad have departments of early music, but they don’t attract many young musicians. The situation is the same in the Czech Republic, according to Semerádová.

“In the mid-’90s, the early music movement was popular at conservatories and colleges,” she says. “Students went abroad and studied. Some came back and are still playing, but we don’t see new or young musicians.”

Organizers at both Collegium Marianum and the French Institute are hoping this week’s classes will start to change that.

“The Académie and other courses [offered at Collegium Marianum] can motivate musicians and show what is lacking here,” Semerádová hopes. “It’s very important for musicians to know each other and play together.”

“This isn’t just for the public to enjoy,” Poivre d’Arvor says. “It helps develop a sense of music and increases creativity for local musicians, and gives teachers an opportunity to discover new talent and artistic experiences.”