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Jan Dismas Zelenka & Bach

Zelenka

Jim Morrison wrote (July 26, 2001):
Speaking of composers other than Bach, here's someone I've only recently come across have a great time listening to: Zelenka, a Czech contemporary of Bach. I've only heard one recording, the three disc set of Orchestral Works by the Berne Camerata / Alexander van Wijnkoop. Archiv Produktion_ which is now, at least in America, is nla.

Recorded in the last 70's on modern instruments, with harpsichord support from the oft-mentioned Jaccottet, I find the music engaging in a Bachian kind of way absent from much of the music I have by Vivaldi, Handel, or Telemann. It seems more complex, less showy and public, more surprising with more layers to the music. Zelenka's music, you could say, unfolds in a less direct manner than the others I just mention, with more surprises along the way.

The Berne Camerata set is the only one I have. Anybody out there have comments or recommendations. I'm in the market for more music by this composer, of which, by the way, there isn't much out there. From what I've read, I'm leaning towards the Trio Sonatas by the Ensemble Zefiro (Paolo Grazzi, Alfredo Bernardini, obs; Alberto Grazzi, bn; Manfred Kraemer, vn; Lorenz Duftschmid, violone; Gian Carlo Rado, theorbo; Rinaldo Alessandrini, hpd/org).

PS: what follows are some passages from reviews I pulled off the web. None of it was written by me.

Capriccios-No. 1 in D major; No. 2 in G major; No. 3 in F major; No. 4 in A major; No. 5 in G major. Concerto a 8 in G major. Sinfonia a 8 in A minor. Hipocondrie a 7 in A major. Overture a 7 in F major.

This three-CD package contains all the extant orchestral music by Zelenka. Here to a greater extent, even than in the six trio sonatas which are reviewed on page 1181, the individuality of this composer is vividly on display. The horn writing in the five Capriccios makes even Telemann sound conservative though there are plenty of stylistic traits common to both composers mainly deriving from the influence of a central European folk tradition. Evidence of this can be heard at once in movements such as "Paysan", "Canarie" and "Villanella" where folk-like melodies and characteristic dance rhythms abound. Each Capriccio is scored for pairs of oboes, horns, a bassoon and a string ensemble sometimes with and sometimes without viola. The horns have the best or, perhaps worst time of it with uncommonly high parts-the opening movement of the Capriccio No. 4 in A major is a notorious example-and a dominating role almost throughout. The music's originality is easily matched by its charm, at times, irresistible. The second movement "Canarie" of the Capriccio No. 2 in G major is enchanting as is its three-section opening movement which begins in an identical manner to the first movement of Handel's Organ Concerto in F major, Op. 4 No. 4. Few listeners will be disappointed either by the Capriccios themselves or by the performances which are crisp and invigorating.

The remaining works are in a mixture of forms: a sinfonia, an overture-suite with a markedly Handelian opening, a piece in three movements formally occupying territory somewhere between a suite and a concerto and eccentrically called Hipocondrie, and a concerto grosso for four concertante instruments and strings. There are interesting features in each of these works though occasionally, as in the Allegro finale of the Concerto in G major, recurring patterns are somewhat overworked. Zelenka can be repetitive in a way which Telemann usually though not invariably, avoided, but the initial ideas are often so fresh in their conception that a degree of forbearance is perhaps called for; but at his best, as he certainly is in the extended concerto-like Allegro opening movement of the Sinfonia in A minor, Zelenka can hold his own comfortably alongside most of his German and Italian contemporaries. The Italian influence, and that of Venice in particular is strong in this robust piece and not only the solo passages but also the tuttis are splendidly varied.

....

Although his music was almost entirely neglected from the time of his death until the mid 20th Century, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1649-1745) is now recognized as one of the most original composers of his time. His contemporary admirers included Bach and Telemann, who had the highest regard for his contrapuntal mastery and harmonic inventiveness. There is a strain of quirky eccentricity in much of his music. Could this be one of the reasons he was passed over in favor of Johann Adolf Hasse for the post of Kapellmeister at the court of Dresden in 1729? Zelenka had been part of the Dresden musical establishment since 1711 and had assumed many of the functions of the ailing Kapellmeister Johann David Heinichen. In the end, Zelenka had to content himself with the title of Church Composer.

.....

The Overture in F begins with a French-style overture, notable for some surprising harmonic progressions (but this is true of nearly all of Zelenka's music), and followed by four shorter movements. Perhaps the strangest of these works is Hipocondrie The significance of its odd title is a mystery. In outward format, it is a French overture, but the opening slow section deploys dotted rhythms in such a way that it sounds (so help me) more like a baroque habanera! There is a persistent shifting between major and minor in this section, so that the harmony seems constantly unsettled. The Concerto in G and Sinfonia in A minor are Italian in outward format, but like the French-style works, are so distinctive that they could not have been written by anyone but Zelenka. It is hardly surprising that there is a good deal of virtuoso writing for solo violin and oboe, but Zelenka also exploits the solo possibilities of the bassoon and cello. For example, the concerto's slow II opens with an extended bassoon solo, and III includes a duet for bassoon and cello. Zelenka first came to the Dresden court as a double bassist, so perhaps he was more conscious than most musicians of his day of the solo potential of lower-pitched instruments.

...

Zelenka's Requiem was written for a commemoration of the Emperor Joseph I, commissioned by his daughter. The service as a whole was limited to one hour, so the musical setting had to be concise. Zelenka rose to the occasion by producing a setting that leaves an impression of resolute solemnity, with some moments of tender expression.

....

Zelenka Trio [Sonata] Sonatas, Volume 2 - No. 1; No. 3; No. 4. Ensemble Zefiro (Paolo Grazzi, Alfredo Bernardini, obs; Alberto Grazzi, bn; Manfred Kraemer, vn; Lorenz Duftschmid, violone; Gian Carlo Rado, theorbo; Rinaldo Alessandrini, hpd/org).

Auvidis Astree (Full price) (CD) E8563 (52 minutes: DDD).

Selected comparisons:

Holliger, Bourgue, Thunemann (1/89) (ARCH) 423 937-2AX2

Dombrecht, Ponseele, Bond (3/89) (ACCE) ACC8848D

Since the first recording of Zelenka's six trio sonatas for two oboes, bassoon and continuo appeared in 1973 (Archiv Produktion), several others have been issued to rival them. Zelenka's oboe writing in these pieces is little short of brutal, making at texceptional demands on the stamina and agility of the players. Heinz Holliger and Maurice Bourgue, on the Archiv set, overcame the difficulties pretty well, but then they had the technical advantage of present-day instruments. Paul Dombrecht and Marcel Ponseele, on the other hand, fearlessly embarked on performances with period instruments. That was about 12 years ago. This new disc from the Italian Ensemble Zefiro completes a second period-instrument excursion - I reviewed the first of their discs in June 1994 - and reveals the stride forward in baroque solo technique that has occurred over the last decade or so.

Zelenka was one of a gifted group of composers associated with the Dresden court during the first half of the eighteenth century. The court orchestra, one of the best around at that time, boasted a particularly accomplished wind section, and it may have been for some of these players that Zelenka wrote his six trios. The sources have not survived complete in all cases and the realization, for example, of the bass parts in the First and Third Sonatas, both of them included here, must always be conjectural. Ensemble Zefiro have thought carefully about this and have arrived at a solution which is both idiomatic and, it seems, in keeping with the surviving material.

The playing, as I remarked in my earlier review, is spirited and plentifully endowed with virtuosity. The oboists Paolo Grazzi and Alfredo Bernardini are technically secure and tastefully imaginative in their ornamentation. Bassoonist Alberto Grazzi is also fluent and furthermore a sensitive ensemble player. Keyboard continuo is stylishly provided by Rinaldo Alessandrini, sometimes playing harpsichord, at other times organ; and additional continuo support includes violone and theorbo. Readers so far unacquainted with these sonatas are in for a treat for this is music rich in fantasy, exciting for its virtuosic content, unusually extended in the working out of its ideas, and effectively constructed. Recommended. NA

Central to Zelenka's orchestral oeuvre are five suites, each termed Capriccio. Four of them date from 1717-18 and were written in Vienna; the fifth, written in 1729, was composed for the court of August the Strong in Dresden. Unlike Bach, who varied the scoring of his orchestral suites, Zelenka adhered to the same instrumentation in all of his: two violins, viola, cello, and bass, with the violins often doubled by oboes and a bassoon chugging along with the low strings. The winds were also allocated solo roles, but the most striking feature was Zelenka's athletic and fiendishly demanding writing for a pair of hunting horns.

Zelenka's syntax is of the high baroque, but it has a decidedly personal accent. In addition to unusual rhythmic patterns and cross-accents, phrases that naturally seem bound for cadence suddenly spin off in another direction, and harmonic norms are shunned. On one occasion, instead of the basic dominant-to-tonic chordal progression, the harmony is resolved to the tonic via a flatted sixth! Even more bizarre, it all works in the context of the music.

Zelenka's music is always fresh and creative, often surprising in its sudden turns of harmony and demanding instrumentation. Overall his many compositions, both choral and instrumental, are marvelous examples of a subtle blend of Italian and French manners with a most distinctive personal style. The fluency of declamation and wide phrases with elegantly shaped melodic lines in his choral works are clearly italianate. French influence is seen in the formal organization of his instrumental suites and capriccii into relatively short and contrasting sections. Particularly noteworthy in the latter are the rich harmonic textures with their strange modulations, dissonances, and often unpredictable progressions. Zelenka's skillful and imaginative contrapuntal writing functions as the integrating stylistic factor. The character of his scores, with their busy and imitative inner parts, comes remarkably close to Bach - indeed, Zelenka's idiom approaches that of Bach much more than Handel's or Telemann's ever did.

Jim Morrison wrote (July 26, 2001):
I forgot to add, that if anyone is interested in what reviews around the web have to say about Zelenka and wanted to save some time in their research, just contact me and I'll send you an email of what I have.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (July 26, 2001):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< Anybody out there have comments or recommendations. I'm in the market for more music by this composer, of which, by the way, there isn't much out there. >
Here's a review I wrote for MusicWeb. While this particular performance is not excellent, the work itself is.

JAN DISMAS ZELENKA (1679-1745)

Missa Dei Patris ZWV 19 (1740)

Kyrie [8.45]
Gloria [19.41]
Credo [23.55]
Sanctus [7.90]
Agnus Dei [10.37]

Venceslava Hruba-Freiberger, soprano
René Jacobs, alto
Reinhart Ginzel, tenor
Olaf Bär, bass

Thüringischer Akademischer Singkreis, Wolfgang Unger
Virtuosi Saxoniae, Lugwig Güttler

BERLIN CLASSICS BC 1078-2 [69.59]

Jan Dismas Zelenka, born in 1679 in Bohemia, was educated by the Jesuits in Prague. He joined the Dresden court in 1710 as a double-bass player and died there, 35 years later, after becoming a composer of sacred music. During this time, he worked with kapellmeister Johann David Heinichen, and, after Heinichen¹s death in 1729, assumed responsibility for church music. This was, however, temporary, and he was replaced by Johann Adolf Hasse.

While Zelenka was roughly a contemporary of Bach, Vivaldi and Handel, his music is not what is generally considered baroque. He was greatly influenced by Italian opera, very much in favour in the Dresden court. Many similarities can be heard between his works and those of Hasse, for example, who was a leading proponent of the opera seria. His late masses, including this one, show a strong resemblance to Hasse¹s works.

The Missa Dei Patris was composed for a small instrumental group - two violins, oboes, viola and basso continuo. Unlike Hasse¹s final mass, which was a large-scale work, this is an intimate piece. Yet, structurally and stylistically, there are many similarities. Like Hasse, Zelenka presents a more dramatic mass than baroque composers of the same period. The choral movements are more lively and energetic than those of other baroque composers. The first movement of the Kyrie, for example, opens with a lively, gay melody before the chorus enters and starts chanting the text. It almost sounds like a short opera overture, in its presentation of various musical themes. The Et resurrexit, part of the Credo, features the four soloists singing together with the chorus, and, when the soloists sing, their voices express a great deal of drama and emotion, but remain on a superficial, non-spiritual level.

Zelenka¹s arias also have the same almost Mozartian feel to them. Some of them achieve a more meditative effect, such as the Angus Dei I, sung by alto René Jacobs, which recalls some of Bach's arias in the passions. A slow, minimal, introspective orchestral accompaniment flows gently behind Jacobs¹ plaintive voice. The Benedictus aria, sung by Olaf Bär, even recalls the 'Papageno' aria of Mozart¹s magic flute.

While the musicians and choir are excellent, the soloists seem a bit weak and uninvolved. Jacobs, in particular, is quite disappointing - his voice sounds unconvincing and unfocused.

Nevertheless, Zelenka manages to express a wide variety of musical styles in this work. This is an excellent recording of a composer whosework deserves greater attention. In spite of the weak soloists, this is a very agreeable recording musically.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 26, 2001):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< Speaking of composers other than Bach, here's someone I've only recently come across have a great time listening to: Zelenka, a Czech contemporary of Bach. I've only heard one recording, the three disc set of Orchestral Works by the Berne Camerata / Alexander van Wijnkoop. Archiv Produktion_ which is now, at least in America, is nla.
Recorded in the last 70's on modern instruments, with harpsichord support from the oft-mentioned
Jaccottet, I find the music engaging in a Bachian kind of way absent from much of the music I have by Vivaldi, Handel, or Telemann. It seems more complex, less showy and public, more surprising with more layers to the music. Zelenka's music, you could say, unfolds in a less direct manner than the others I just mention, with more surprises along the way.
The Berne Camerata set is the only one I have. Anybody out there have comments or recommendations. I'm in the market for more music by this composer, of which, by the way, there isn't much out there. From what I've read, I'm leaning towards the Trio Sonatas by the Ensemble Zefiro (Paolo Grazzi, Alfredo Bernardini, obs; Alberto Grazzi, bn; Manfred Kraemer, vn; Lorenz Duftschmid, violone; Gian Carlo Rado, theorbo;
Rinaldo Alessandrini, hpd/org). >
Zelenka is one of the best composers of Bach's time. There are quite a number of recordings on the market, and many of them are very good. The CDs of the 6 Triosonatas with the Ensemble Zefiro are brilliant. Great music and great performances.

I would also recommend:
- Lamentationes Jeremiae prophetae - there are quite a number of good recordings. I favour the recording on deutsche harmonia mundi with René Jacobs, Guy De Mey, Kurt Widmer and instrumentalists of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, but Groenewold, Meens, Van Egmond and the Academy of the Begynhof (Globe) is good as well
- Missa Dei Filii and Litaniae Lauretanae (Argenta, Chance, Prégardien, Jones, Stuttgart Chamber Choir & Tafelmusik/Frieder Bernius - deutsche harm. mundi)
- Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (Hlavenkova, Kozena, Moravec, Sporka, Predota, Pospisil & Musica Florea/Marek Stryncl - Matous)
- Miserere, De profundis & Requiem (Frimmer, de Groot, Honeyman, Kooy, Snellings & Il Fondamento/Paul Dombrecht - Passacaille)
- Gesù al Calvario, oratorio (Malikowa, Schmithüsen, Norin, Cordier, Wessel, Rheinische Kantorei & Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max - Capriccio)
- orchestral works (coupled with pieces by Pisendel - also good) (Freiburger Barockorchester/Von der Goltz - deutsche harmonia mundi)
- there is another CD with orchestral works by Il Fondamento (don't know the label, probably Vanguard Classics)

There is more, but these are the most important.

Jim Morrison wrote (July 26, 2001):
Thanks for the help with the Zelenka recordings.

I'm listening to one of his Capriccios right now, and a specific area of his music that reminds me of Bach is the way he writes great parts for the winds. In a large percentage of my Handel, Telemann, and Vivaldi discs, it's the strings that get the best music. Maybe I should look a little more closely for CDs of their music that spotlights wind instruments.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 26, 2001):
Another excellent piece (and moving performance) is Zelenka's c minor requiem with a Bern chamber choir and orchestra conducted by Jörg Ewald Dähler. Claves 50-8501 from 1985.

It's still in their catalog: http://www.claves.ch/98Rahmen/indexen.htm

Donald Satz wrote (July 26, 2001):
[To Johan van Veen] The first Zelenka disc I bought was on Claves 8501. It's a Requiem in C minor(I think) directed by Dahler on period instruments. I've always been very impressed with the work and performances, and no Zelenka discs I've bought since then have won me over as much as the one on Claves.

 

Off topic: Zelenka

Peter Bright wrote (April 12, 2002):
I have just picked up a disc entitled: "Lamentations of Jeremiah". It's on Hyperion helios (CDH55106) and features Michael Chance, John Mark Ainsley, Michael George and the Chandos Baroque Players. Given that Zelenka is bound to be of some interest to many on this list, I wonder whether others have this recording. It was recorded in 1990 and originally released the following year - it has only just been re-released. The only other Zelenka-featuring disc that I own is the rather wonderful BIS Magnificat CD (also containing the Bach and Kuhnau compositions). Thoughts on the Lamentations disc (or general observations concerning Zelenka) would be gratefully received. I have it playing now, and, although at work, I am wallowing in its sweeping, warm strings - I think I'm going to like it...

Thomas Boyce wrote (April 12, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] I have the "Lamentations of Jeremiah" by Thomas Tallis, which are great. Never heard of Zelenka's. Of course, the "Spem in alium" is tacked on to the end of the "Lamentations" CD (!).

Anthony Olszowy wrote (April 12, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] I too grabbed the Zelenka Lamentations recently on a whim, and was very pleasantly surprised. I am not a big fan of the countertenor as a soloist, but I found the warmth and resonance of the recording most satisfying. A relatively subtle, touching setting of a text that others have milked for all the melodrama they could.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2002):
[To Anthony Olszowy] Yep, Zelenka seems to be one of those composers who consistently delivers that pleasant surprise. About a dozen years ago I first heard his Requiem in C Minor and was very pleased. It remains one of my favorite requiems by anybody.* (I was doing a comprehensive survey of all the concerted pre-1800 requiems that were available, either recorded or not, studying the compositions.) That one is/was on Claves 8501, the Bern Chamber Choir and Orchestra conducted by Jorg Ewald Dahler.

The Ludwig Guttler disc of Zelenka's Laudate pueri, Confitebor tibi Domine, and three Capriccii is also a delight. Berlin Classics 11492.

I haven't heard the Lamentations yet.

[* My favorite pre-1800 concerted requiems: Zelenka, Gilles, Campra, Kerll, Biber (2), Michael Haydn, Mozart...all giving an effective blend of solemnity, serenity, respect, introspection, release, and comfort.]

Donald Satz wrote (April 12, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] That Claves disc of Zelenka's C minor Requiem was my first exposure to Zelenka and made me an instant fan. Is there any solo organ music by Zelenka on record?

Jim Morrison wrote (April 13, 2002):
Zelenka, did they say Zelenka.

Always looking to push Zelenka. My collection of his orchestral and chamber music isn't large, but hey, there's not a whole lot of such compositions by him extant.

If you ever though Handel was inventive, wait to you hear Zelenka's Orchestral works. Must haves. Constant surprises and yet not really coming at you like Vivaldi can sound. More gentle/subtle than that, I'd say. I only have one complete set, that on modern instruments, Camerta Bern with, get this Peter, Jaccottet on harpsichord. I think the Archive set is long out of print, but I did see something a few months ago that looked like a single disc budget release of them at amazon.de. Maybe that made it to the states.

Must be about a year ago now we went through some Zelenka recommendations. I think Johann had the longest list with some insight that I trusted. Let's see what Joost has to say this year.

Anyone have period instruments recommof the orchestral works?

I have a single disc Harnoncourt set which I couldn't recommend unless you just wanted to hear NH in these works. I picked mine up at Berkshire along with the Six trio sonatas with some kind of European band, Duetschler at the harpsichord, claves. These set is good, but doesn't match the Zefiro Ensemble (some of the Savall usual suspects in that group) I only have one disc of that two disc set, but I'm looking to get my hands on the other soon.

Those sonatas by the way, are mainly works in which two oboes and a bassoon get to star.

Zelenka writes fine late Baroque music for winds, I think.

Never heard the Requiem.

< The Ludwig Guttler disc of Zelenka's Laudate pueri, Confitebor tibi Domine, and three Capriccii is also a delight. Berlin Classics 11492. >
That disc I just found the other day in my collection. You know how it is. I'd forgotten that I had it, but it's good. Don't underestimate Guttler as a director and trumpet player just because some of his work is dirt cheap. He's good, flexible and involved. I'm sure people that know more about horn/wind music can say more.

How about that first movement to the Cappriccio ZWV 185! Now that's my kind of fun baroque music.

Yeah, Zelenka. Go for it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2002):
Donald Satz inquired:
>> Is there any solo organ music by Zelenka on record?<<
Bach had a high regard for Zelenka's compositions and with his Collegium Musicum he played Zelenka compositions in Zimmermann's Coffeehouse.

Both the MGG and New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musician give no evidence that any organ compositions by Zelenka have ever existed.

A complete edition of his instrumental music does exist and a good portion of his choral works has also been published.

Joost wrote (April 13, 2002):
My favourite recording of Zelenka's Lamentationes is with René Jacobs, Guy de Mey and Kurt Widmer, with an ensemble from the Scola Cantorum Basiliensis. I have two reasons to prefer this one to the Hyperion version: 1. I am a big Jacobs fan, especially in the somewhat introverted repertoire, and 2. I cannot stand Michael George (the singin' Harley Davidson). For people disagreeing with my Jacobs preference, and sharing my aversion to M.D., there is a third option on Globe Records, with members of the Academy of the Begijnhof. I don't remember the soloists, but the performance is OK.

More Zelenka: his Missa Dei Filii (ZWV 20) is well recorded by Frieder Bernius on DHM (coupled with the Litaniae Lauretanae ZWV 152).

Hermann Max recently recorded Gesù al Calvario (ZWV 62) for Capriccio, and Musica Florea, dir. Marek Stryncl, did a great job recording Z's Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis conspicua orbi regia Bohemiae Corona (ZWV 175) for Supraphon. [under the olive tree of peace and the palm tree of vitue the Crown of Bohemia shines before the whole world ;-)]

My pet choral recording up to now is the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (ZWV 17), again with Musica Florea, on a Studio Matous disc (with Magdalena Kozena [small part though] among the soloists).

Zelenka's 6 trio sonatas for two oboes, bassoon and basso continuo are ranked among the best in the genre. Ensemble Zefiro recorded these on two Astrée Auvidis discs - superb bassoon playing by one of the Grazzi bros! On CPO you may find three discs with the complete orchestral music by Das Neu-Eröffnete orchester, dir. Jürgen Sonnentheil.

Sorry Don, can't tell you about any organ works...

Joost wrote (April 13, 2002):
Zelenka enthousiasts may be interested in the following site: www.jandismaszelenka.com

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2002):
[To Donald Satz] I believe that no organ music of Jan Dismas Zelenka exists, as good as that might have been.

The standard organists' reference book, Organ Literature: A Comprehensive Survey by Corliss Richard Arnold (Scarecrow Press, Metuchen NJ, 1984 2nd ed.) doesn't even mention that Zelenka himself existed. Arnold does list two 20th century composers whose names were Zeljenka and Zelinka, but that's as close as it gets. And there are at least a thousand other composers listed in here that hardly anybody has ever heard of.

Don, this is a great book to have around! There's an astonishing amount of data in it. Might be worth your while to hunt down a copy.
(I haven't seen the 1995 third edition yet.) I get it off the shelf every few weeks to check something or other.

Joost wrote (April 13, 2002):
More Zelenka

A discopgraphy of Zelenka and his Dresden colleagues such as Heinichen, Lotti and Veracini is to be found at: www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/articles/dresden/

Joost wrote (April 13, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And there are at least a thousand other composers listed in here that hardly anybody has ever heard of. >
According to Zelenka's biography on www.jandismaszelenka.com his father was an organist. It may depend on the father-son relationship if JD wrote any organ music ;-)

Jim Morrison wrote (April 13, 2002):
[To Joost] Thanks for the links, Joost.

Maybe the closet we're going to get to organ music by Zelenka is listening for the instrument in some of the sacred music.

Anyone heard the Holliger Trio Sonata sets? Either one, both with Jaccottet by the way.

PS: not a whole lot of Zelenka to pick from in the USA. A tower 'composer' search pulled up only 37 hits, and a fair number of those were on collection discs of various composers. Heavily addicted/hard-core collectors take note, having every Zelenka recording in-print is within your reach!

Pete Blue wrote (April 14, 2002):
[To Joost] Zelenka collectors should be, and probably are, familiar with the great Flemish oboeist Paul Dombrecht, a longtime colleague of the brothers Kuijken, oboeist on Leonhardt's Sony Brandenburgs. and phenomenal conductor of the HIP ensemble Il Fondamento. With them he has recorded choral and orchestral Zelenka, and as performer with Marcel Ponseele and virtuoso bassonist Danny Bond (IIRC) has put out a CD of Zelenka trio sonatas (wonderfully played IMO). Most of his recordings are on the Belgian label Passacaille (still part of Vanguard?). Farther OT: his Handel Water Music is breathtaking (listen to sound sample 7, the F major Bourree, on the JPC website).

As conductor, Dombrecht is an intonation fanatic, and it really pays off. Also, all his allegros seem to have an airiness and bounciness that outdoes MAK or McGegan or anybody else I can think of in the music I've heard him conduct. I'm looking forward to his JS Bach; he's already done some WF Bach and a practically unavailable JS Bach SJP (BWV 245).

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 14, 2002):
Off topic: Zelenka - Dombercht

[To Pere Blue] The Bach Cantatas includes a short bio of Paul Dombrect: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Dombrecht-Paul.htm
If you like to expand it, you are invited to send me the additional info and I shall add it.

Joost wrote (April 14, 2002):
Pete Blue wrote:
< Zelenka collectors should be, and probably are, familiar with the great Flemish oboeist Paul Dombrecht, a longtime colleague of the brothers Kuijken, oboeist on Leonhardt's Sony Brandenburgs. and phenomenal conductor of the HIP ensemble Il Fondamento. With them he has recorded choral and orchestral Zelenka, and as performer with Marcel Ponseele and virtuoso bassonist Danny Bond (IIRC) has put out a CD of Zelenka trio sonatas (wonderfully played IMO). Most of his recordings are on the Belgian label Passacaille (still part of Vanguard?). >
A couple of years ago Passacaille became an independent label - their future with Vanguard was far from secure. The trio sonatas recording Pete mentioned quite rightly, is on Accent, another great Belgian label.

Thomas Radleff wrote (April 14, 2002):
Not OT: Zelenka & Bach family

[To Joost] Paul Dombrecht also recorded a CD with a fine selection of Zelenka“s orchestral works under the title of "Prague 1723", on passacaille, 2000. A firework!!

What strikes me most in Z“s instumental works are the LONG melodies that seem to take a new turn every three bars and that bear many more surprises till they get to the point where they came from, after having passed through a large tonal range. In a later period - let“s use the common, but not very correct name Sturm & Drang - this was more fashionable, and of course, in later epocas it“s almost normal... late romantics and moderns. But back to Bach: this breathtaking long melodic lines is surprisingly often to be found in Wilhelm Friedemann Bach“s orchestral works. (Both of them, W.F.B. and Zelenka, were not really successful in their carreer - could be an interesting exploration if the "modernism" of their (instrumental) music pobably was one reason for it.)

Another Bach with a beautiful "long breath": the almost non-existing Johann Bernhard Bach (1676-1749) - though nothing more than his four orchestersuites survived, we can be thankful for them; influence on J.S.B.“s parallel works is audible.

Two more Zelenka recommendations:
-Missae: "Musik aus der Dresdner Hofkirche" Kammerchor & Barockorchester Stuttgart - Frieder Bernius. Sony 1998
- The Six Triosonatas. Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Claves 1995

About 5 years ago I was lucky to hear Holliger/Jacottet/Zehetmaier/Thunemann a.o. with them in Vienna, at about the same time when ECM released the recording; maybe Christiane Jaccottet last one. The record itself - well, humm - everything“s there, but maybe a bit dry; not really pulsing...

Any other impressions?

Jim Morrison wrote (April 14, 2002):

Thomas Radleff wrote:
< Paul Dombrecht also recorded a CD with a fine selection of Zelenka“s orchestral works under the title of "Prague 1723", on passacaille, 2000. A firework!! >
Thanks for mentioning this one. This may be my next Zelenka purchase.

< Never heard anything by Bernhard Bach. Any recommendations? >

< - The Six Triosonatas. Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Claves 1995 >
That's good, I'm still investigating it, but I think I'd give the Ensemble Zefiro first place in my admitely small Zelenka collection. The Claves disc you mentioned is esp attractive because it's avalible for about 16 bucks, or half price, at Berkshire.

Holliger, what little I've heard, has never set me on fire. I wouldn't be surprised that his Zelenka trio sets, on modern instruments, right, wouldn't be of first rate quality.

It's may understanding that Jaccottet's last recording was the Rameau Suite on the collection disc "The Baroque Harpsichord" Claves, also available at Berkshire.

Looks like we're getting a lot of good recommendation for Zelenka in the past couple of days. how about a few Zelenka discs that aren't so worthy. The only disc in my collection, once again, small collection, that I wouldn't feel safe recommending is the Harnoncourt disc from 1980.

Thomas Radleff wrote (April 14, 2002):
Jim Morrison asked:
< Never heard anything by Bernhard Bach. Any recommendations? >
YES !!!

Johann Bernhard Bach: The 4 Orchestral Suites.
Freiburger Barockorchester, dir. Thomas Hengelbrock
(rec. 1993 EMI) Virgin-veritas 1998. Usually mid-price.

A must, and a great delight...

J.S.B. (their grandfathers were brothers) must have admired these suites very much, as Christoph Wolff tells us in Die Bach-Familie, and at the first sight it becomes clear that he was strongly inspired by them. Wolff mentions also some organ pieces: Two fugues, a chaconne, and a handful of chorales - these are the only preserved works of this - well, must have been a master.

The only piece I know is the Chaconne, a very light one... alas! I“m afraid I cannot recommend the recording, except for collector“s purpose: Orgelwerke der Bach-Familie. Franz Haselböck. Hänssler 1991.

Does anyone know some Johann Bernhard Bach record at all, esp. of these organ & harpsichord pieces?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 15, 2002):
[To Thomas Radleff] Thomas, the only recording of Johann Bernhard Bach I've heard is the same one you've mentioned: that nicely done Freiburg disc of the four orchestral suites. I have the 1993 EMI issue 54309, haven't seen the Virgin reissue.

At the same time I got that I bought a companion disc by the same performers: Johann Ludwig Bach's suite in G, Zelenka's Suite in F a7, Fasch's Ouverture in C, and Telemann's Suite #2 in G minor, TWV 55g1. That one was EMI 54310.

Both are recommended. The Freiburg Barockorchester is very good with this style of music! I don't know if this other one is available now or not, though; EMI has always been among the labels quickest to cut anything out of the catalog. I'd learned to grab any EMI disc as soon as I saw it once, because it might never be back, and it might vanish within a month or two. Frustrating. It's good to hear that at least the J B Bach is back on Virgin.

Joost wrote (April 15, 2002):
[To Jim Morrison]
When you follow Thomas' recommendation and puchase Il Fondamento's instrumental disc, it may be a good idea to get the companion vocal disc too (the only reason that I forgot to mention it last week, was that it was stored at the wrong shelf, far away fromthe other vocal Zelenkas ;-)).

With the Miserere, the De Profundis and the Requiem you get a perfect idea of Z's vocal output.

 

Bach and Zelenka

Beppe wrote (June 10, 2006):
I recently discovered Zelenka's music (see http://www.jdzelenka.net/).

It seems that he knew Bach and that J.S.Bach held in esteem Zelenka's work, as reported in a letter of 1775 by C.P.E. Bach to Forkel: " In his last years Bach esteemed highly the former Imperial Oberkapellmeister Fux, Handel, Caldara, Reinhard Keiser, Hasse, both Grauns, Telemann, Zelenka, Benda, and in general everything worthy of esteem in Berlin and Dresden. The first four he did not know personally, but the others he did". (from: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/acc/hasse.html)

I was a bit surprised of finding Telemann... and perhaps Handel... I thought there was a bit of rivalry between Bach and Telemann.

So I wonder if the list reflects JSB's real opinion about these composers or it is "just" a list of the most known composers at that time.

Thanks in advance

Thomas Wood wrote (June 11, 2006):
[To Beppe] Bach never met met Handel but he seems to have known Telemann quite well -- Telemann was the godfather of Carl Phillipp Emmanuel. Telemann wrote a rather touching poem on Bach's death.

Bach sent Wilhelm Friedemann to Halle to meet Handel on one of his visits to his mother to persuade Handel to visit Bach in nearby Leipzig but to no avail.

Andrew Schulman wrote (June 11, 2006):
Beppe wrote:
< I recently discovered Zelenka's music (see: http://www.jdzelenka.net/). It seems that he knew Bach >
I play Zelenka's Trio Sonata #5 in F Major with my group. We think it's a great piece. It would not be surprising if in fact Bach knew his music and held it in high esteem.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (June 11, 2006):
Thomas Wood wrote:
< Bach never met met Handel but he seems to have known Telemann quite well -- Telemann was the godfather of Carl Phillipp Emmanuel. Telemann wrote a rather touching poem on Bach's death. >
Apart from that Bach appears on the subscribers list of Telemann's Paris Quartets, and, IIRC, he also acted as an agent for Telemann's publications in Leipzig.

Beppe wrote (June 11, 2006):
[To Sybrand Bakker] I read somewhere that Telemann applied for the job as Kantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig just to get a raise for the same post he had in Hamburg, but probably is an interpretation without fundament. The argumentation was that nobody wanted to teach latin, and Leipzig's Council decided to make an allowance just for Telemann, who was considered by the the best man for the post and hired him. But Hamburg didn't want to make without Telemann and convinced him by increasing his pay, which Telemann accepted.

I wonder what Bach must have felt... Zelenka too was turned down in favour of Hasse for the post of Kappelmeister in Dresda, but in this case Hasse accepted the post.

I still cannot understand why Telemann was preferably to Bach. I haven't heard Hasse's music yet, and I wonder if it is/was better to Zelenka's as to prefer him as Kappelmeister.

John Briggs wrote (June 11, 2006):
Thomas Wood wrote:
< Bach never met met Handel but he seems to have known Telemann quitewell -- Telemann was the godfather of Carl Phillipp Emmanuel. >
Which tends to show that "Phillipp" was the name that Telemann used. Telemann was a friend of Handel.

< Telemann wrote a rather touching poem on Bach's death.
Bach sent Wilhelm Friedemann to
Halle to meet Handel on one of his visits to his mother to persuade Handel to visit Bach in nearby Leipzig but to no avail. >
I do wonder if Bach wanted tips on how to write Passions :-)

Beppe wrote (June 11, 2006):
[To Andrew Schulman] The zwv 181? The triosonates is the only cd I could find at the local shop and so far the only music by Zelenka I could hear.

Fery wrote (June 11, 2006):
In fact, Zelenka is a very nice baroque composer. Actually, I know a German (Frauke Mekelburg) organist, who's written a so called Zelenka Suite on his themes for the organ (http://www.frauke-mekelburg.de/).

To tell you the truth, Bach and Telemann were really good friends, even if Telemann was a much bigger star at their time. But Bach didn't care about that.

Bach tried 2 times to meet Handel, but he didn't succeed in reaching him. It depended first on Bach, because he got sick, but at the second time Handel didn't want to meet him. I've read, he didn't know Bach's music, not even his name, and he was too proud to meet a "middle-classed" composer...

Sybrand Bakker wrote (June 11, 2006):
Beppe wrote:
< I read somewhere that Telemann applied for the job as Kantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig just to get a raise for the same post he had in Hamburg, but probably is an interpretation without fundament.The argumentation was that nobody wanted to teach latin, and Leipzig's Council decided to make an allowance just for Telemann, who was considered by the the best man for the post and hired him. But Hamburg didn't want to make without Telemann and convinced him by increasing his pay, which Telemann accepted. Ulrich Siegele has argued there were two 'parties' in the Leipzig Town Council. >
One party wanted a good *Cappellmeister* and didn't care he also was a good schoolmaster. The other party didn't care about music, and primarily wanted him to be a good schoolmaster. Telemann didn't want to be a schoolmaster, though his post in Hamburg at the Johanneum was exactly the same as Bach's in Leipzig. However, Hamburg didn't belong to Lutheran orthodoxy, so he had much more freedom to compose for his own sake.

But... Telemann was appointed, he declined the offer, and he did get a salary raise in Hamburg.

< I wonder what Bach must have felt... Zelenka too was turned down in favour of Hasse for the post of Kappelmeister in Dresda, but in this case Hasse accepted the post.
I still cannot understand why
Telemann was preferably to Bach. >
Oh, I can.

First of all : Telemann studied law in Leipzig.

Secondly: he was the musical director of the so-called Neue Gottesdienst which was founded to get rid of the old-fashioned music of Bach's predecessor Kuhnau.

Thirdly: Bach's music was considered as being old-fashioned, what it surely was. Also : Telemann's church music is definitely more easy to listen to than Bach's. Johann Adolph Scheibe labeled Bach's music once as 'too complicated and unnatural'. The same verdict was given by Johann Mattheson, who critisizes cantata BWV 21 in his 'Volkommene Capellmeister'. On the other hand, Mattheson praises Bach for contrapuntal mastery. Bach's contemporaries primarily valued him as a virtuoso organist and not as a foremost Capellmeister.

< I haven't heard Hasse's music yet, and I wonder if it is/was better to Zelenka's as to prefer him as Kappelmeister. >
Hasse is as Zelenka as Telemann is too Bach.

Andrew Schulman wrote (June 11, 2006):
Andrew Schulman wrote:
<< I play Zelenka's Trio Sonata #5 in F Major with my group. We think it's a great piece. It would not be surprising if in fact Bach knew his music and held it in high esteem. >>
Beppe wrote:
< The zwv 181? >
Yes.

Beppe wrote (June 12, 2006):
Sybrand Bakkerwrote:
< Oh, I can.
First of all :
Telemann studied law in Leipzig.
Secondly: he was the musical director of the so-called Neue Gottesdienst which was founded to get rid of the old-fashioned music of Bach's predecessor
Kuhnau.
Thirdly: Bach's music was considered as being old-fashioned, what it surely was. Also :
Telemann's church music is definitely more easy to listen to than Bach's. Johann Adolph Scheibe labeled Bach's music once as 'too complicated and unnatural'. >
Which means that our perception of Bach's music is quite different from his contemporaries?

Why his contemporaries were not touched by... say St. Mathew's Passion (to remain in a religious context)?

Had Bach wanted to write in a simplier way, like Telemann, he could've done easily I assume; but he didn't.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (June 13, 2006):
[To Beppe] Yes, it is quite different. It can't be otherwise, as most contemporaries barely knew any vocal works, and if they knew instrumental works, primarily knew works for organ and/or harpsichord. If they knew vocal works they rejected them (Mattheson cantata 21, Scheibe, cantata 92)

Bach's contemporaries weren't touched by the SMP (BWV 244), simply because they didn't hear it. The SMP was only performed in Leipzig 4 times during Bach's lifetime.

Apart from that, there is one comment from Leipzig, were an old woman was quoted as the Passion has been 'too theatrical'. It is not sure whether this reflects the SMP (BWV 244), but it is likely.

Bach couldn't write in any other way, as he was too deeply rooted in the music of his forefathers, and his 17th century teachers like Buxthudes. In the 1710s he assimilated Italian and French influences, after 1720 his style hardly changes.

Currently listening to a live performance of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232) by the Bach Collegium Japan. Very fast tempi, but boy they work! Bach continues to suprise you!

Tpfkanep wrote (June 13, 2006):
Sybrand Bakker wrote:
< Bach couldn't write in any other way, as he was too deeply rooted in the music of his forefathers, and his 17th century teachers like Buxthudes. In the 1710s he assimilated Italian and French influences, after 1720 his style hardly changes. >
How much "poorer" would JSB's music have been were it not for the French and Italian (esp Vivaldi) influences...?

The Coffee & Peasant cantatas show that JSB had a touch of "lightness/silliness" in him. Some would even call those Opera-lite. Why JSB did not compose more of those, I would not know.

Too often, rightly or wrongly, JSB is associated with that which is eternal, religious, ethereal,etc. and esp. Telemann, rghtly or wrongly, with that which is temporal, superficial, etc. These two composers compliment each other perfectly. Many use JSB's output, esp. sacred, to elevate him. JSB used/abused :-) /re-used a lot of his works in this regard (Nothing wrong with that at all). Where GPT rarely recycled works. Amazing, given his vast output (thankfully, that is noways not much of a source of derision).

Too often we also forget that JSB, JDZ, etc. were also human beings. Who offered supplications to their "masters" for better pay, etc. JSB was envious of his Dresden colleagues (of which JDZ was a member) and their working conditions. JSB also wrote the Leipzig council for funds to enable the musicians to play mausic in the modern style and current fashionable tastes.

It is ironic that these composers were on very amicable terms, and yet today we are sometimes too quick to label composers and their music.

Listen/play without prejudice.

John Sturmond wrote (June 13, 2006):
Tpfkanep wrote:
< The Coffee & Peasant cantatas show that JSB had a touch of "lightness/silliness" in him. Some would even call those Opera-lite.
Why JSB did not compose more of those, I would not know. >
I would lay it at the doorstep of practicality. JSB was kept quite busy at all stages of his career by composing music for the court and the church. When he did have a chance to compose 'for himself' - ie the keyboard works - I assume he was more concerned with using that time for a serious exploration of his abilities.

Beppe wrote (June 14, 2006):
[To John Sturmond]
To me, now that I have discovered JDZ, and after a huge listening of JSB, the interesting part is to understand what is the "typical of the time" and what is "peculiar" to each composer. The inspirational vein vested in baroque dress... is it possible to perceive the composer's inner heart considering that he was "limited", limited is not the correct term perhaps "interlaced" is more appropriate, by the musical language of his age? I believe that JSB's music offers several hints of humour, here and there there are funny parts.

IIRC Bach's family used to sing and play somehow trivial or even oscenous songs by changing words to famous songs. So probably JSB didn't feel the urge for such compositions, his "funny and wild" side was well taken care
of.

Tpfkanep wrote (June 15, 2006):
Beppe wrote:
< To me, now that I have discovered JDZ, and after a huge listening of JSB, the interesting part is to understand what is the "typical of the time" and what is "peculiar" to each composer. >
---------------------------------------
Typical of the time was largely represented by Telemann (Germany), Vivaldi (Italy and elsewhere), Corelli (same as Vivaldi), Lully (France). Bach was really the antithesis, in a manner, to all this. He was heavily influenced by Vivaldi, Corelli, Palestrina. He also admired the works of Hasse, Telemann, Fasch: Composers which are thought to be "minor" when (unfairly) compared to him. JDZ had a collection of music ranging a good couple of centuries (I forgot what JDZ's list is called), which also incl. music by Palestrina and others. I have to agree with you wholeheartedly: getting to the zeitgeist of the period is what is the most beautiful and challenging to me, when listening to Baroque. A futile venture, but interesting, fun and revealing. If only I can get my Time Machine fixed.

Beppe wrote:
< The inspirational vein vested in baroque dress... is it possible to perceive the composer's inner heart considering that he was "limited", limited is not the correct term perhaps "interlaced" is more appropriate, by the musical language of his age? >
---------------------
I do not think we will ever get a true reflection of a composer's inner heart and motivations. Why did JDZ take a turn for the worse, so to speak, when Hasse got the much sought after Kappellmeister post? Would his compositional style have changed more to the taste of his patron, who found JDZ's works too long and tiring? Why did JDZ stoop so low when applying for the post? He basically begged for the post and an increase in his allowance.

JDZ and JSB share a lot of common ground. But I find JDZ's works, esp. the Trio Sonatas, much more exciting than any other Baroque work that I have listened to by any other composer.

Beppe wrote (June 15, 2006):
[To Tpfkanep] Very interesting!

In a way every now and then I think what kind of music would JSB compose now, or would've composed during the Romantic period. I am incline to thinthat the Baroque musical language offered enough freedom to experiment and enough "discipline" or rigour as not to loose one's bearing, so probably it was the best milieu... background... for such a musical talent as JSB.

Tpfkanep wrote (June 19, 2006):
< In a way every now and then I think what kind of music would JSB compose now, or would've composed during the Romantic period. >
------------------------
He would have composed exactly like any Rennaisance/Romantic/Pop/Rap/Rock/Heavy Metal/... composer.

John Briggs wrote (June 19, 2006):
[To Tpfkanep] But a lot better :-)

Beppe wrote (June 22, 2006):
[To John Briggs] I think there is an "idea" which he, JSB, could have expressed in a multitude of ways, such as paintings, poetry, novels... or even cooking. I think there is something peculiar which has to do with a superior cognitive level he could access. He had a tremendous tecnique and a vast knowledge to compose music, but it is not just because of this that he composed brilliant music.

To me in his compositions there are like glittering gleaming diamnods, sometimes hidden (and more than sometimes not) in the baroque interwaved musical lines; and these precious musical stones testify the overcoming of a fashion.

Some heavy metal groups have copied JSB's music, but the magic effect was not there... it is not some dramatic or magnificent "intro" which make the trick.

Tpfkanep wrote (June 23, 2006):
Beppe wrote:
< I think there is an "idea" which he, JSB, could have expressed in a multitude of ways, such as paintings, poetry, novels... or even cooking. >
Subjectivity. Objectivity.

When looking at art, what makes one declare that X is above all? Y is mediocre, and Z not even worth a look? When I listen to JSB-philes, I cannot help but get a feeling that at times there are attempts to "rectify" the opinion of his peers about him. When someone (Matheson, Scheibe, etc.) makes a negative assesment of a JSB work, it is normally seen as "he could not recognize the greatness of JSB", etc.

JSB was just one of many genuises of the day.

Lawrence wrote (June 25, 2006):

Sybrand Bakker wrote:
< Yes, it is quite different. It can't be otherwise, as most contemporaries barely knew any vocal works, and if they knew instrumental works, primarily knew works for organ and/or harpsichord. If they knew vocal works they rejected them (Mattheson cantata BWV 21, Scheibe, cantata BWV 92)
Bach's contemporaries weren't touched by the SMP, simply because they didn't hear it. The SMP was only performed in Leipzig 4 times during Bach's lifetime. Apart from that, there is one comment from Leipzig, were an old woman was quoted as the Passion has been 'too theatrical'. It is not sure whether this reflects the SMP, but it is likely.
Bach couldn't write in any other way, as he was too deeply rooted in the music of his forefathers, and his 17th century teachers like Buxthudes. In the 1710s he assimilated Italian and French influences, after 1720 his style hardly changes.
Currently listening to a live performance of the B-minor Mass (
BWV 232) by the Bach Collegium Japan. Very fast tempi, but boy they work! Bach continues to suprise you! >
Bach's music was misunderstood or unappreciated for three main reasons:

1. The flowery florid melodic lines. Although other composers used these also.
2. The length of the melodic lines is inordinate compared to that of other composers.
3. The texture of the counterpoint is often very thick.

To me, these are all virtues. To average listeners then, when the high Baroque was already past and modern, homophonic lines were being used more and more by such as Handel and Telemann, the melodic character of Bach's pieces was simply over the heads of many listeners. Even today, I have friends who are classical music fans who prefer Handel and Mozart much to Bach. Their brains are simply not wired to apprehend this complex wealth of beauty and appreciate it.

Tpfkanep wrote (June 27, 2006):
[To Lawrence] These questions are open to all and are not meant to offend. When I read how ppl mostly belittle GPT, I have thoughts of "they will never understand GPT". :-)

 

Bach and Zelenka

Continue of discussion from Joseph Haydn & Bach [Bach & Other Composers]

Peter Smaill wrote (May 13, 2008):
>>Zelenka's compositional style is very unusual, but it's such a delight to hear.He was no doubt involved in performances of Bach's b Minor mass (BWV 232) in Dresden.<<
Agreeing greatly with the first part of the statement, I'm alas not at all sure about the second part. As far as I recall the Belfast B Minor Mass debates last December, it is still the case that no performance at all in Dresden of the whole B Minor Mass (BWV 232) is evidenced. That is not to say that the 1733 Kyrie-Gloria Mass was not performed; and it is quite possible that Zelenka's own music shows in one Mass setting an affinity with parts of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). The prime reason for doubting a performance is the great length of the BMM (BWV 232), in a court where Zelenka and Heinichen were bidden to restrict the Mass service to one hour.

Certainly Bach and Zelenka were well acquainted.

Less persuasive but a factor is that the text of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) diverges in at least two places from the Roman Catholic text, notably at "Altissime", and so cannot have been acceptable liturgically.

The speculation (as I recall it) at Belfast by Michael Maul, discoverer of the strophic song "Alles Mit Gott", is that Bach sold music towards the end of his life to Count Questenberg (the receipt has been discovered) which might have been the score or parts of the BMM (BWV 232); and Questenberg may have arranged to have them performed in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna in an afternoon non-liturgical concert of the music society to which he belonged. All this is somewhat tentative (if fascinating) work in progress and not helped by the fact that Questenberg's gardeners after his death were in the habit of wrapping his large collection of scores round the estate trees to shield them from winter frosts.

I would be interested to know if any BCW members have read Janice B Stockigt's work on Bach-Zelenka collaboration which may be the source of the idea that there may have been, unlikely as it seems, a Dresden performance. It would be good to know precisely what this scholar has said on the subject.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 13, 2008):
Peter Smaill quoted my initial comment:
>>Zelenka's compositional style is very unusual, but it's such a delight to hear.He was no doubt involved in performances of Bach's b Minor mass (BWV 232) in Dresden.<<
and then stated:
> Agreeing greatly with the first part of the statement, I'm alas not at all sure about the second part. <
Yes, I stand corrected about a possible performance in Dresden of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). I had a conversation with my editor/publisher Brian Clarkabout this and a Bach connection with Zelenka and Heinichen. This was a chat while we were both working on the computer, it's just our thinking out loud and impressions.

B.C.:
Bach definitely knew of Heinichen and Zelenka's music whether the influence worked the other way around or not, I'm not sure.

Me:
Zelenka would have been the person that would have performed parts of the B Minor mass (BWV 232), no?

B.C.: I doubt it - Heinichen was a well-respected composer in his time - he'd had a paid trip to Italy, which Bach was denyeah, Heinichen would have been dead by then but there's a theory that the B minor mass (BWV 232) - which was never performed at Dresden, according to Ms Stockigt - was like a job application but Hasse got the job.

Me:
I thought there is evidence it was performed, based on the parts etc that were copied out Bach only sent a score just the kyrie and gloria.

B.C.
As far as I'm aware, there aren't enough parts in Dresden to suggest that it was performed (a single set of parts would never have sufficed there) Bach may well have sent parts to encourage a performance but normally Dresden sources for church music have at least three copies of each violin and cello and two of viola.

You almost mentioned other factors mitigating against a Dresden performance-- including time constraints; and this makes a lot of sense. I remember reading that during the first performance of Zelenka's setting of the the Lamentations (the one that has survived), that the Electress ended the performance by getting up and walking out. How dreadfully embarrassing that was.

Great thread, thanks everyone ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 13, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< You almost mentioned other factors mitigating against a Dresden performance-- including time constraints; and this makes a lot of sense. I remember reading that during the first performance of Zelenka's setting of the the Lamentations (the one that has survived), that the Electress ended the performance by getting up and walking out. How dreadfully embarrassing that was. >
Stauffer's book on the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) gives examples of other large-scale festive masses in Dresden which suggest that size cannot be argued against Bach's setting as a liturgical work. Beethoven's Missa Solemni, another monumental setting, was written for an actual occasion whose deadline the composer unfortunately missed.

On the subject of a Vienna peformance of the Bach Mass (BWV 232), the first peformance of Missa Solemnis was in a concert. However, the censors insisted that it be sung to a German text so that the words of the mass were not performed in a concert.

Love the Electress story. On one occasion at the Chapel Royal when Handel was conducting, the orchestra thought the Archbishop of Canterbury had preached long enough and began to tune their instruments!

 

KUHNAU's and ZELENKA's

See discussion at: Johann Kuhnau & Bach (May 19, 2008)

 

Zelenka and Kuhnau files uploaded

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 19, 2008):
Aryeh has uploaded the sample files to the website for your listening enjoyment:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/Kuhnau-Mus.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/Zelenka-Mus.htm

I hope you enjoy them,

 

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