On the Breath of Angels

Bruce Dickey & Hana Blažíková

On the Breath of Angels

Music for soprano & cornetto

Hana Blažíková, soprano

Bruce Dickey, cornetto

with The Breathtaking Collective


From the 17th century

The Carlo G Manuscript

Sigismondo D'India

Maurizio Cazzati

Giacomo Carissimi

Two newly commissioned works

(and an angelic excursion to the 19th century)

Eric Satie (Les Anges, 1889)

Opera arias with solo cornetto around 1700

Antonio Draghi

Giovanni Maria Bononcini

Alessandro Scarlatti

Program Description

In the 16th and 17th centuries the vast majority of images of cornetto players are depictions angel musicians, often in the company of angelic voices, viols, violins, trombones, organs and harps. Taking this image as a point of departure, Bruce Dickey and Hana Blažíková, following the success of their project “Breathtaking”, have developed a new program around the pairing of the voice and the cornetto. Once again they will explore the synergy of their instruments in diverse repertoires from the 17th century to the present day.

We will return to further explore a couple of the composers from Breathtaking program, most notably Sigismondo D’India, Giacomo Carissimi, and Alessandro Scarlatti. But we will also go further afield. In the last few decades, a mysterious manscript from around 1600 turned up on the auction circuit. It contains florid sacred monodies and duets of a variety of composers, but mostly by the compiler himself, signed Carlo G… (The rest of his last name is obscured by a smudge.) The music is fascinating for its elaborate ornamentation and its use of instruments. We will perform pieces for two sopranos, in which the cornetto takes the role of the second soprano, and pieces for soprano and violin, in which the elaborate ornamentation of the violin is played on the cornetto. Once again we will explore opera arias from the last decade of the 17th century, with music of Scarlatti, but also Antonio Draghi and Antonio Maria Bononcini.

We have commissioned two new works for our angels project by Ivan Moody and Julian Wachner. Moody is an English conductor, musicologist, composer and Orthodox priest who lives and works in Lisbon. His many works show the influence of Eastern liturgical chant and the Orthodox Church. He has written highly successful works for groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and many others. Julian Wachner is an American composer, conductor and keyboard player. Since 2011 he has been Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street Church in New York City. Though he has written in many genres both sacred and secular, much of his early work was liturgical. He has described his music as lying between the "between the Apollonian world of church music and the academy and the Dionysian world of opera and the stage.” These composers will explore both the instrumental-vocal duality and the theme of angels in its broadest sense.

We will bridge the two new works with a wonderful chanson (1886) of Eric Satie called Les Anges. Taking literally the words of the chanson which describes “lutes shivering under the fingers of angels to produce the divine harmony”, we have arranged the piano accompaniment for lute, confidant of not having brought harm to the composition. The cornetto will reply with elaborate divisions on motets with angel texts of Orlando di Lasso. It will be a truly celestial program.

Hana Blažíková, soprano

The Czech soprano, Hana Blažíková, studied at the conservatory with Professor Jiří Kotouč, graduating in 2002. She also studied musicology and philosophy at the University of Karlovy and Prague. She also plays on the harp. At present, she specializes in the interpretation of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music. She has also taken part in interpretation courses with Poppy Holden, Peter Kooy, Monika Mauch and Howard Crook. Hana Blažíková collaborates with various chamber ensembles, such as Sette Voci, Capella Regia, Collegium Marianum, Quodlibet Jiřího Stivína, Musica Florea, Collegium 1704, etc. She often gives concerts abroad, for example, in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. She has appeared at many international festivals, such as the Prague Spring 2004 and 2005, Oude Muziek in Utrecht in 2005, Resonanzen in Vienna in 2006, etc. In 2004, she sang the role of Susana in W.A. Mozart's opera La Nozze di Figaro at the Karlovy Vary Theater, and in the summer of 2005 she appeared as Zerlina in W.A. Mozart's Don Giovanni in the summer scene "Mozart Opera" at the Estates Theater. She was a member of the ensemble Collegium Vocale 1704, with which she took part in the Bach - Prague 2005 (such as the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) at the Prague Spring 2005, Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) in the Symphony Orchestra cycle). She has also sung with ensembles as Collegium Vocale Gent, Bach Collegium Japan (Director: Masaaki Suzuki), and Tafelmusik.

Bruce Dickey, cornetto

Bruce Dickey is one of a handful of musicians worldwide who have dedicated themselves to reviving the cornetto - once an instrument of great virtuosi, but which lamentably fell into disuse in the 19th century. The revival began in the 1950s, but it was largely Bruce Dickey, who, from the late 1970s, created a new renaissance of the instrument, allowing the agility and expressive power of the cornetto to be heard once again. His many students, over more than 30 years of teaching at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, have helped to consolidate and elevate the status of this once forgotten instrument. For his achievements the Historic Brass Society awarded him in 2000 the prestigious Christopher Monk Award for "his monumental work in cornetto performance, historical performance practice and musicological scholarship." In 2007 he was honored by British conductor and musicologist Andrew Parrott with a “Taverner Award” as one of 14 musicians whose “significant contributions to musical understanding have been motivated by neither commerce nor ego.”

In the course of his long career as a performer and recording artist he has worked with most of the leading figures in the field of early music, including the legendary pioneers of historically informed perfomance, Gustav Leonhardt, Frans Brüggen and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He was a member for over ten years of Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX , and has frequently and repeatedly collaborated wth Ton Koopman, Monica Huggett, Philippe Herreweghe and many others. Of special importance has been his long-time friendship and collaboration with Andrew Parrott, and in more recent years with Konrad Junghänel.

Bruce Dickey can be heard on countless recordings. His solo CD ("Quel lascivissimo cornetto...") on Accent with the ensemble Tragicomedia was awarded the Diapason d’or. His second solo CD, entitled “La Bella Minuta”, has just been released on the Passacaille label.

In addition to performing, Bruce Dickey is much in demand as a teacher, both of the cornetto and of seventeenth-century performance practice. In addition to his regular class at the Schola Cantorum he has taught at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, as well as master classes in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He is also active in research on performance practice, and has published, together with Michael Collver, a catalog of the surviving cornetto repertoire, and, together with trumpeter Edward Tarr, a book on historical wind articulation. In 1997, together with his wife Candace Smith, he founded Artemisia Editions, a small publishing house which produces editions of music from17th-century Italian convents.

Dickey’s artistry is in full flight on his newest recording, Breathtaking… The agility and spirit of Blažíková’s singing are beautifully complemented by Dickey’s cornetto as it responds to her lines, or anticipates them, or simply sings with them.

-Mark Kanny for Early Music America

…they absolutely fit like a glove and achieved ‘breathtaking’ balance and intimacy. Blazikova’s execution seems to flow directly from the underlying narrative of the text, and time and time again I thought just how ‘conversational’ the line of her singing was.

-Geoffrey Newman for Seen and Heard International

The soprano was exquisite, her first entrance in each new piece somehow more refreshing and sensational than all previous ones. Her voice has a unique beauty, a pure, colorful tone, with a mezzo-like dark energy. Her unadorned, but elegant and shapely phrasing connected notes and words in a wonderful musical whole. Dickey’s playing was equally eloquent… His cornetto had an attractive, uncanny quality, as if the sound and articulation of the instrument were coming straight out of his throat.

-George Grella for New York Classical Review

Mal umschmeicheln sich Stimme und Instrument und verschmelzen zu einem Klang, mal behaupten sie sich neben-, nach- und gegeneinander. Doch immer zeichnen sich der Zinkspieler und die Sopranistin durch immense Virtuosität, hohe Musikalität, perfekte Intonation und beseelte Musizierfreude aus. Das Album "Breathtaking" ist wirklich atemberaubend schön.

-Dirk Kruse for BR Klassik