MICHNA, ADAM (1600-1676)

Czech composer, Adam Michna, was the son of the bailiff of Jindřichův Hradec castle who was also the town organist and leader of the castle trumpeters. He probably received his early musical training from his father and later studied at the town's famed Jesuit Gymnasium. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Jesuits were the leading musical force in the Czech lands and Michna seems to have been one of their favored composers since many of his compostions were printed by the Jesuit Academic Press in Prague.
Around 1633, Adam Michna followed his father in becoming the town organist of Jindřichův Hradec, his only official musical appointment. He divided his time between music and commerce as did his father before him. A licensed wine vault brought him considerable revenue. He was a s ubstantial property owner and was prominent in local affairs. In 1673, he established an endowment for talented young musicians in his area. He was twice married but there are no records of any children.
Michna's musical compositions were all written for the church and are of two types: simple vernacular hymns and elaborate Latin concertato works. It is estimated that only a third of his output survives. The hymns are clearly influenced by the strong and long-established tradition of congregational singing in the Czech lands, but nothing discoverable in his background fully accounts for the marked, and contemporary, Italian influence in this Latin church music.
His two hymnals, Česká mariánská muzika (Czech Marian Music) and Svatoroční muzika (Music for the Liturgical Year), were specifially compiled for the use of churches with limited musical resources. They contain simple four and five-part homophonic settings of his own religious poetry. The melodies have a decided folk character. Each hymn is provided with a simple continuo part. Several of the pieces from these two books have remained in popular use in the Czech Republic to this day. Michna's music is notable for its colour and its attractive melodic qualities. He was the outstanding composer in the Czech lands during the 17th century, dominating his contemporaries.
Chtíc aby spal (Tenderly Mary Sings) was written in 1647 and remains one of the best known and loved Czech Christmas carols. It is sure to catptivate the listener by the sheer fact of its beauty of line and honest feeling of tenderness toward the newborn child. Apparently for Michna, the most valued aspect of his religious faith was its ample opportunity for singing. In his words, "My love will not let me repose in silence; it induces me with vehemence to sing."