Prague has almost 100 churches in the historical city center alone, their spires contributing to a skyline that seems to reach for the heavens. Inside are richly decorated sculptures that seem to come alive with their pain and ecstasy, paintings, gold details, dramatic lighting.
And many of these churches are also used for something more than religious services — classical concerts are almost nightly. Walk across Charles Bridge, through Old Town and down the winding streets and someone is sure to thrust a glossy playbill in your hand. Come hear Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” Bach, Mozart and definitely Antonín Dvořák.
I must admit, a string ensemble in a Baroque setting has been on my Prague bucket list, so tonight I made it happen.
Actually, I bought the ticket for the Saturday concert at St. Giles two days ago and was then able to stand in the narthex to take photos through the iron gates. At other times, no photos are allowed.
Tonight’s performance was by the Czech String Chamber Ensemble and the “Great Organ,” one of the largest in Prague with 3,500 pipes. Of course the acoustics with that frescoed ceiling allowed the music to fill every bit of the sanctuary. The strings, led by Jakub Jánský, sounded like an entire orchestra, not simply two violins, a viola and a cello. From the short “Ave Maria” to the amazing depth of Ravel’s “Bolero”
— which showed the skills of the whole quartet — they led the audience through a gamut of emotions. And the organ’s Bach “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” did not sound like the protestant church organ in Des Moines. It’s clear why Milos Forman used this church for the filming of the movie “Amadeus.” (And, yes, I bought a CD because St. Giles is part of the Monastery of the Dominican order next door and gets the proceeds from the sales, though this snippet was from the actual concert.)
For less than $15, there’s probably few ways to feel that close to heaven.