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The closest collaborators of the architects were the site manager J. Werych (Verych), master builders J. Bělský and (after Bělský’s demise) F. Havel, J. Martin, F. Pavikovský and Q. Bělský. The Rudolﬁnum oﬃcially passed building inspection in July 1884 and the originally planned sum of 500,000 guldens devoted to its construction had grown to 2,000,000 guldens. The designers were supposed to be paid the royalty of 40,000 guldens according to the contract. However, when Zítek and Schulz asked for an increase related to unexpected changes after ﬁnal approbation, their fee was increased by 8,000 guldens. The general meeting of Česká spořitelna decided to organize a grand opening concert, whose proceeds were to be donated to the poor, and to mint a commemorative coin, with two golden coins to be presented to Emperor Franz Josef I and to the crown prince. The ceremonial opening took place after the installation of exhibits on February 7, 1885. Unfortunately, the prince and his wife excused themselves due to illness. While the German press was enthusiastic about the opening concert featuring numerous foreign artists, the Czech journalism reacted with numerous bitter and unscrupulous attacks. In the atmosphere of growing nationalism it turned out that the generous intent of Česká spořitelna would not be duly appreciated until much later.
Plans of Viennese government were not implemented. The municipality asked too much for the land and the ministry of education withdrew the plan. The municipality then decided to build a school across the square from Rudolﬁnum and did so despite strong public opposition. This spoiled a unique opportunity to create a monumental unit. Zítek had planned a large fountain, park and statue alley in the middle of the prospective square.
The opening of the Rudolﬁnum brought well deserved accolades to Zítek. He and Schulz were awarded the title of privy counselor by the Emperor. However, probably disgusted by the “politicking” surrounding the construction, Zítek ended his active artistic career after the opening of the Rudolﬁnum.
Architectural Design of the Rudolﬁnum
Zítek’s and Schulz’s intentions were in full accordance with the wish of R. Eitelberger to use Renaissance forms for the new building of Rudolﬁnum. Both authors were inspired by the supreme Renaissance architecture of the early cinquecento. The design bears traces of their knowledge of classical German and French architecture and the strong inﬂuence of architect G. Semper, especially his Dresden and Bayreuth theaters that served as models for the shape of the auditorium reﬂected in the external outline of the Rudolﬁnum.
However, motifs of speciﬁc models served to the creators only as a “material for free variations”, to “evoke the grand form, classical restraint, noble elegance, simple austerity and other features of Renaissance art as deﬁned a little later by H. Wölﬄin, but not to imitate its perceptive surface.”9 The result was a unique building, comparable to vintage European production of the era, the works of Semper and Hansen.
Before modifying the initial plans, Zítek wanted to verify his conception abroad, and he and Schulz left for study trip to Western Europe and England in 1874. Upon returning, they made new plans for the building that fully met the requirements of Česká spořitelna.
Their study trip is documented in a report. Both architects visited European cultural centers, taking note not only of architectural forms of individual music halls and theaters, but also examining the operational layout of buildings. Both designers visited music halls in conservatories in Cologne, Brussels, Paris, and Munich, Exeter Hall and Albert Hall in London, Händel’s orchestra in Dydenhammer Crystalpalast, other concert halls in Brussels and Paris, and the theater in Bayreuth. Among the buildings devoted to graphic arts they saw the British Museum, the National Gallery, and Kensington Museum in London, the Louvre and Luxembourg Palace in Paris, and the Pinakothek in Munich. They studied acoustic parameters for music production, the lighting and layout of paintings and sculptures in galleries, as well as heating and ventilation.
The little known fact that Zítek and Schulz met Richard Wagner is also worth mentioning. They discussed mainly practical problems and matters related to the buildings of this type with the renowned composer. A progressive, amphiteatrical music hall auditorium layout without the galleries and boxes used in Rudolﬁnum design had been used by Semper before. Zítek and Schulz noted in their report that this solution was recommended to them by Wagner. The architects also mentioned that the composer suggested the ideas of an approximately square music hall, a ﬂat ceiling, orchestra placement in a special niche and he also pointed out the advantages of steel and glass.
See note 2. In the quoted passage, J.
Vybíral quotes H. Wölﬄin’s publication Klassische Kunst from 1898.
The general outline of the Rudolﬁnum building is very clear. It is a complex divided to musical (southern) and gallery (northern) parts, reminiscent of Weimar museum design.10 The outstanding feature of the building is calm resulting from suﬃcient space and safe ﬁnancing. Rudolﬁnum has a strongly prolonged ground plan, consisting of roughly two squares with square corner risalits and loggias on the side facades. The main façade is an intimate analogy to Semper’s Opera in Dresden (1838–41, destroyed by ﬁre) and its convex curve corresponds with the inside of the amphiteatrical auditorium. Embossed decorations in exteriors are sparse and are concentrated mainly above the parapet, where the motif of decorative vase above each axis stresses the rhythm of placement. The parapet in the corner risalits bears the statues of musicians (in the music section) and artists (in the gallery section).11 There is no commemoration of any Czech or even Slavonic composer, a fact mentioned at the time by indignant Czech journalists. However, it must be pointed out that the selection of musicians was purely historical, purposefully taking no attitude towards the present or recent past (the youngest composer is R. Schumann, dead for over 25 years at the time). Therefore there is no Smetana or Musorgsky, and no Liszt, Wagner, or Brahms, either. The space in front of the building provided room for ﬁgural decoration at the foot of the building. Its author is sculptor B. Schnirch, who created the two sphinxes at the western entrance, the lions at the underpass and the female ﬁgures symbolizing sacred and secular music in front of the main entrance. Zítek and Schulz were co-designers of the lamp posts for the intended generously ﬁnanced modiﬁcation of the square.
The core of the southern part of the building is the music hall, passing through both above ground ﬂoors. The auditorium is amphiteatrical, with a niche for the organ in front and a low wall with massive Corinthian columns separating the gallery with a lacunar ceiling around the hall. The frame of the organ built for the Dvořák hall by W. Sauer from Frankfurt has the shape of an ancient temple: the pipes are separated from the ceiling and the gable contains the head of goddess Athena. Interiors are decorated with stukes by B. Schnirch. The ceiling and corridors are decorated by Pompeian and Renaissance farcical scenes by Viennese painter P. Isell. The only inconspicuous reminder of Česká The Weimar museum was the ﬁrst independent work by Zítek, bringing him well-deserved respect.
The southern section of the parapet (façade to Jan Palach square) is adorned with the statues of the following composers: western facade (middle risalit from south): T. L. Vittoria (R. Kauﬀungen), J. de Prés (O.
Menzel), O. di Lasso (F. von Miller), G. P. da Palestrina (L. F. Šimek) eastern facade (middle risalit to 17th November street): F. Schubert (J. Lax), C. M. von Weber (T. Seidan), F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (F. Meixner), R. Schumann (W. Seil) western risalit: L. Cherubini (B. Seeling), D. F. E. Auber (F. C. Becher), G. F. Händel (H. Rathauský), W. A. Mozart (E. Klotz) eastern risalit (k Rejdišti): L. v. Beethoven (E. Börmel), J. S. Bach (J. Dorer), Ch. W. Gluck (H. Rathauský), J. Haydn (E. Klotz). The northern parapet section portrays the following artists: from the south, 17th November street: L. della Robbia (R. Raab), D. Bramante (B. Schnirch), Masaccio (J. Schmidt), Donatello (R. Kauﬀungen), Brunelleschi (J. Čapek), Ghirlandaio (W. Seil), Feidias (M. Engelke), Apelles (J. Schmidt), Iktinos (B. Schnirch), Praxiteles (G. Tscherne), Sansovino (J. Kassin), B.
Cellini (J. Brzorád), Raﬀael (T. Seidan), Michelangelo (L. Šimek), L. da Vinci (R. Kauﬀungen), P. Veronese (O. Menzel) spořitelna, which paid for all construction expenses, is the motif of a bee – the symbol of thrift – located in the balcony parapet stuke.
An interesting and speciﬁc area for musicology is the acoustic of Dvořák hall at the time of its opening. The Rudolﬁnum (with an auditorium capacity of 1100) has enjoyed a certain worldwide repute over the years and it is regarded as one of the music halls with the best acoustic in Europe. Hearing musical performances in the charming neo-Renaissance interiors, listeners feel as though the almost perfect acoustic has always been a feature of the hall. The Rudolﬁnum is presented in a similar way in some otherwise good publications that either just touch upon its acoustics or leave the matter of its history completely aside. The reality at the time of opening, however, was very diﬀerent, as we see in contemporary documents. Numerous critical voices at the end of 19th century pointed to the fact that unsatisfactory acoustic was the Achilles heel of the Dvořák music hall. A wave of criticism fell upon the Rudolﬁnum building immediately after the opening concert on February 7, 1885. Many articles mentioned the poor acoustic of the new hall designed to improve the quality of concert life in Prague. For example, “Národní listy” daily features a review of the 26-year-old composer, Josef Bohuslav Foerster, who attended the opening concert. Foerster wrote: “The overall impression of almost all the compositions was disturbed by a huge ﬂaw of the concert hall – its poor acoustic. Reverberation, so disturbing during rehearsals, was not removed by a large audience. This is why we cannot really judge the organ as the full sound produces nothing but chaotic masses of sounds, harmony is blurred and melody lost. Unless this main ﬂaw is removed, the hall loses all meaning, not meeting its most important requirement.”12 His was not a lone voice. As late as 1906, the philharmonic chronicler Josef Boleška stated objections against the internal layout, the decoration and acoustic of Dvořák hall, and against the outlying position, far from main roads, as the main reasons that led the orchestra from the Rudolﬁnum to the Crop Exchange Hall.13 The acoustic problem was solved satisfactorily as late as during World War II by architect Antonín Engel who made several modiﬁcations and remedied the above-mentioned defects.
The Rudolﬁnum is not only a superior work of architecture, but also a reﬂection of cultivated urbanistic thinking of both designers. The horizontal dimension of Zítek’s and Schulz’s new building “greatly contributed to majestic character of this part of the Old Town riverbank.” The Rudolﬁnum now constitutes the main wall of the emerging riverbank and at the time it added a new element to Prague panorama, impressive from a distance due to the well-chosen general proportion and eﬀective contour of roofs.”14 Respect to historic city context, combined with advanced individual architectural skills, inventiveness and regard to building function, results in a supreme work of architectural art.
Národní listy, February 8, 1885.
J. Boleška, Česká ﬁlharmonie 1896–1906 (Praha 1906).
A. Engel, „Rudolﬁnum,“ Umění (1942–3): 107–120.
Music Production in the Rudolﬁnum before 1900 With the opening of the Rudolﬁnum, Prague obtained a beautiful and respectable music hall that could be compared to similar houses of music in prominent European cultural centers. The city, however, had been facing a more pressing problem for a long time. Throughout the 19th century, Prague did not have regular symphonic concerts and an orchestra to play them, although attempts to create a stable concert institution took place repeatedly. For decades, the situation had been addressed by theater orchestras, both Czech and German, while the key role was assumed by the Prague Conservatory orchestra, limited, however, by its school character.