Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bezdružic (1564 – June 21, 1621) was a Czech nobleman, traveller, humanist, soldier, writer and composer.
As a composer he represented the school of Franco-Flemish polyphony in Bohemia. His activity in the revolt of Protestants resulted in his execution by Catholic forces after the Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years' War.
He was born at Klenová Castle, near Klatovy, Bohemia. From 1576 he studied singing and counterpoint as a member of a local court band at Innsbruck, at the court of Archduke Ferdinand II, learning 7 languages, discovering his talent for music and the other arts and his interest in history, geography and political science. He returned to Bohemia in 1584 in a vain attempt to get a post at the court of Rudolf II, and so enlisted as a soldier, participating in the 1593 and 1597 campaign against the Turks. In 1589 he married Eva Czernin von Chudenitz - they had two children before she died in 1597. Kryštof married two more times. Leaving his relation Lidmila Markvartová z Hrádku to raise the children, in 1598 and 1599 he went to the Holy Land as a pilgrim, wishing to visit the Holy Sepulchre with Eva's brother Hermann. He wrote about his experiences in a book entitled Journey from Bohemia to the Holy Land, by way of Venice and the Sea which was published in Prague in 1608.
After his return, in 1599, he was given a post in the emperor's court and simultaneously raised to the peerage, though both his children died that year. In 1601 he was made an advisor to the court of Rudolf and his successor Matthias and part of the imperial chambers. When the imperial court moved to Vienna, Harant was granted Burg Pecka and dedicated himself for some years to music, becoming the most important Bohemian composer of the time. During 1614-15 he travelled to Spain with a diplomatic mission.
In 1618 he converted to Protestantism, returned to Prague, joined the forces arrayed against the Catholics as an artillery officer and fought on the side of the Bohemian states during the uprisings. In 1619 he became the commissioner of the military unit of Boleslav, Kouřim and Hradec Králové, and was involved in a 50,000 strong regiment in the unsuccessful march on imperial Vienna. During the rebellion he bombarded the imperial palace in Vienna—with the emperor inside—which proved to be a bad move.
After Friedrich V succeeded to the Palatinate, he was appointed as a privy councillor and president of the Bohemian chamber, though this career was short-lived. After the defeat of the Protestant Czechs at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 by the combined arms of Maximilian and Tilly, the subsequent sack of Prague by Imperial troops, and the assumption of office by the Emperor Ferdinand II, Harant withdrew to his castle. He was captured there by Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Waldstein, arrested and taken to Prague, unsuccessfully pleading for mercy. As one of the twenty-seven Bohemian noble rebels, he was condemned to death and beheaded on 21 June 1621 by Jan Mydlář in the Old Town Square, Prague, along with all the other leaders of the insurrection.
His widow Anna Salomena (born von Horschitz, who had married Kryštof) in 1625 married Hermann Czernin von Chudenitz, Eva's brother.
Music and influence
Harant's music was conservative, and in the style of the Netherlands composers of the previous generation. He used archaic techniques such as cantus firmus mass composition. Seven separate works survived, all sacred vocal compositions (the rest were lost when his property was confiscated as being that of an executed traitor). One of his pieces is a cantus firmus mass based on a madrigal by Marenzio (Missa quinis vocibus super Dolorosi martir) —an amusing musical irony in that it combines a technique which went out of fashion a hundred years before with the music of one of Italy's most popular and progressive composers.
Harant had a reputation as a fine instrumentalist and singer in addition to being a composer. In another interesting irony, one of his Roman Catholic masses was performed in 1620, just before his execution, in a Catholic church in Prague, to great ceremony.
- Missa quinis vocibus super Dolorosi martir - to the theme of madrigal by L. Marenzio "Dolorosi martir, fieri tormenti". The mass was published in 1905-6 by Czech musicologist Zdeněk Nejedlý.
- Motet Maria Kron, die Engel schon - for five voices, to the German text, 1604
- Motet Qui confidunt in Domino - for six voices, composed in Jerusalem, 1598
- Dejž tobě Pán Bůh štěstí - Czech wedding song
- Dies est laetitiae - an arrangement of a Christmas song for eight voices
- Motet Psallite Domino in cythara - for five voices
- Motet Qui vult venire post me - for five voices
- Československý hudební slovník I. (1963), p. 404
- Berkovec, Jiří (ed.) (1956, 1966). Kryštof Harant z Požic a Bezdružic. Opera Musica. Qui confidunt in Domino, Maria Kron, Missa quinis vocibus super Dolorosi martyr. Fragmenty. Prague: KLHU.
References and further reading
- (Czech) Koldinská, Marie (2004). Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bezdružic: Cesta intelektuála k popravišti (The Path of The Intellectual to the gallows): biography and legacy. Praha, Litomyšl: Paseka. ISBN 80-7185-537-5.
- Article "Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bezdružic", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2
- Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4
- Museum in the Bezdružice Castle holds a permanent exposition about Harant .
- (Czech) Černušák, Gracián (ed.); Štědroň, Bohumír; Nováček, Zdenko (ed.) (1963). Československý hudební slovník I. A-L. Prague: Státní hudební vydavatelství.
- Qui confidunt in Domino as performed by Prague Chamber Choir
- Biography (Czech)
- Dolorosi martir project with Harant Mass (Czech)
- Recordings of K.Harant Opera Omnia
- Partial recording of cantus-firmus mass based on Marenzio madrigal
- Free scores by Kryštof Harant in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)