Bohuslav Matej Cernohorsky

Cernohorsky was part of a long line of organist/composers from the Bohemian countryside to rise to fame in Prague. Unlike so many of his Czech contemporaries, Cernohorsky achieved substantial fame in his own lifetime. In his finest works he was able to combine the Czech love for instrumental virtuosity and folk-influenced melodic ideas with accomplished contrapuntal skills and Italianate forms. He was born in Nymburk and later studied philosophy at Prague University. Although he received his early education from the Jesuits he took orders with the Franciscans. After leaving university in 1710 he left Prague and went to Italy. This greatly upset his Franciscan guardians who expelled him for 10 years and stripped him of all titles and privileges. Such a reaction seems severe since he had received an invitation directly from the Franciscans in Rome who restored his titles taken by the Czechs and appointed him chief organist at St. Francis in Assisi. After his 10-year exile expired, he was summoned back to Prague, but opted for Padua instead. He finally made it back to Prague in 1720 where he then produced the ambitious Litaniae Lauretanae to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Catholic victory at White Mountain. The piece requires large forces (strings, chorus, four trumpets, and tympani) and features well-wrought fugal sections and energetic instrumental writing. This time in Prague saw Cernohorsky reach the height of his achievements, he was given numerous awards and accolades and was a highly sought after teacher of organ and composition. This glory, however, was short lived. In a dispute with the Franciscans, he denied them his family inheritance and was exiled to Horazdovice in South Bohemia and, yet again, stripped of his titles. It was during this exile where he composed his most famous work, the five-part motet Laudatur Jesus. Disillusioned, he requested permission to return to Padua, where he resumed official duties. He remained there until 1741, when, for unknown reasons, he requested leave to return to Prague. He never made it back to Prague, but stayed the winter in Graz, where he died in February 1742. His inability to make a life for himself in Bohemia was a cause of great sorrow; he wrote: "you see here an open breast without a heart, but have you ever seen one with an open breast and no heart who could continue living?"

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