Bohemian Baroque

Bohemian Baroque

Czech Musical Culture and Style, 1600-1750

Robert G. Rawson


Boydell Press



Examines Czech musical culture c. 1600-1750 and the society that created and shaped it
Traditional polemical histories of Bohemia and Moravia identify the period from the early seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century as a "period of darkness" - particularly in terms of Czech-language culture. This book challenges that interpretation from the perspective of musical culture and demonstrates that this was actually a vibrant, productive and innovative period, both for music in the Czech language and instrumental music. By focussing on the distinctive nature of Czech-language education and devotional traditions (rehabilitated along Catholic lines after the Thirty Years War), the book reveals a new understanding of Czech musical practices and repertoires as a beguiling blend of the older, non-conformist, vernacular traditions with the new, theatrical, Italian styles and genres. Drawing on a broad range of genres including sonatas, concertos, oratorios, Passion music, masses, motets, litanies and operas, Bohemian Baroque reveals a fascinating culture and repertoire that have long been overlooked.
In the Czech lands, seventeenth-century courtly life emerged in a much different way from many other European countries. Bohemian Baroque underscores the prominent role of rural life in shaping musical culture more broadly in Bohemia and Moravia and consequently draws attention to the works and environments of composers whose careers were primarily in the Czech lands (in contrast to the traditional focus on more famous émigré composers). The book also considers the influence of Germanic traditions on Czech musical culture; several areas of overlap reveal newly identified examples of shared repertoires-in some cases, German and Czech even appear within a single work. Taken as a whole, Bohemian Baroque posits a new paradigm in which received notions of "Czechness" in the musical culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries might be reconsidered.
Bohemian Baroque will be required reading for anyone interested in the music of the Habsburg Empire and Central Europe, cultural history, or baroque music more generally. Students and scholars of musical style and music and identity will equally find much of interest here.

Robert G. Rawson is Reader in Musicology and Performance at Canterbury Christ Church University.


October 2013
26 black and white, 93 line illustrations
334 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843838814
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC MUS006000, MUS020000
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Table of Contents

National Narratives and Identities
Cultural and Musical Idioms of Town and Country
Devotional Practices and the Culture of Conversion
'Thither From the Country'-Village Life and Education
Christmas Pastorellas
'Melancholy Ditties about Dirt and Disorder'
Musical Devotions and the (re)Engineering of Patron Saints
Between Venice and Prague-the Vivaldi Connection
Identity on the Stage



Bohemian Baroque emphasizes the vibrant networks of Baroque music-making, uncovers long-forgotten connections, and forges scholarly dialogue in twenty-first-century Europe. MUSIC & LETTERS

Rawson's book is an extremely valuable and timely reassessment of a musical (and literary) culture that has languished in obscurity ... The musical culture of the Bohemian baroque has finally received the scholarly attention it deserves. SLAVIC REVIEW

An admirably sensitive appraisal of a musical culture that has for too long remained in the dark while opening up numerous avenues for further research. EARLY MUSIC

Rawson has mastered the Czech language ... Fascinating ... Rawson is a skilful guide. MUSICAL TIMES

It fills a unique niche that has to date been unoccupied on the shelves of our music libraries, and paves the way for the search for Czech music at a more fundamental level. THE CONSORT