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JAN DISMAS ZELENKA: TE DEUM

DNI 152

DNI175   [8595066601756]   released 02/2024

Te Deum ZWV 145
Missa Eucharistica ZWV 15
Credo ZWV 31

Ensemble Inégal conducted by Adam Viktora
Gabriela Eibenová: soprano, Lenka Cafourková: soprano, Jonathan Mayenschein: alto, Tobias Hunger: tenor, Tomáš Šelc: bass

DNI 152

The music on this CD was written between 1723 and 1733, the most productive period of Jan Dismas Zelenka’s tenure as a composer at the Dresden court. During this time he composed a large number of works for the liturgical services in the Catholic court church, including numerous Masses, requiems, hymns, Marian antiphons, litanies and more than 30 vesper psalms, which recently have been recorded by Ensemble Inégal and released on the Nibiru label. Zelenka’s flurry of compositional activity in Dresden began in earnest in 1722 when he was commissioned to write all the works for Holy Week; what followed in the next eleven years was a stream of music of extraordinary quality, as indeed heard on this recording.

Missa Eucharistica (ZWV 15)

In 1733 the famous Dresden Hofkapelle was a formidable ensemble, having been reinvigorated in 1731 by the appointment of Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) as Kapellmeister of the Saxon Elector and Polish King August II. Hasse, who likely first met Zelenka and the Dresden virtuosi when he visited the Saxon capital late in 1721 on his way to Italy, proposed some much needed changes to the personnel of the court orchestra during the preparation for Cleofide, his first opera for the Dresden court (September 1731). Eleven new instrumentalists were hired and some old wood cleared; a group of young Italian opera singers who had arrived in 1730, including three castrati trained by Nicola Porpora, completed this impressive orchestra, which in time became arguably the finest in Europe under the leadership of Hasse, Zelenka and the concertmaster, violinist Johann Georg Pisendel.

The long-awaited premiere of Missa Eucharistica should please all admirers of the Bohemian composer, since it is his final remaining large work of the 1730s to be recorded. Zelenka’s autograph is dated 1733, the monumental year when he composed so much great music, but for which occasion the Mass was written remains unknown. Zelenka’s confusing entries in his own inventory (Inventarium rerum Musicarum Variorum Authorum Ecclesiae Servientium) certainly do not help to clarify matters: first, with the Mass being originally listed at no. 43 it seems to pre-date Missa Purificationis (ZWV 16, d. 23 August, 1733), the next entry at no. 44. However, Zelenka later crossed out the Missa Eucharistica entry, only to renumber it on a newly inserted folio in the inventory, but now at no. 47. The reason for this is unclear but it might reflect the sequence in which the works were written. In 1987 the late Wolfgang Horn proposed that the Mass was heard in the Catholic court church on 12 October 1733, when the election of the Saxon Elector Friedrich August II as king of Poland (as August III) was celebrated in Dresden. Only recently has it been suggested by Janice B. Stockigt that Missa Eucharistica was composed for the conclusion of the Corpus Christi octave on 11 June, when the diary of the Dresden Jesuits reported that ‘royal music’ was heard in the Catholic court church.

In what is one of Zelenka’s shortest Mass settings – comprising of Kyrie and Gloria only – the composer excels in the rich and varied combination of concerted choruses and arias. And the unusually compact nature of the composition is surprising and begs the question: did Zelenka have a limited time to prepare the music? And what music was used for the Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei? In Missa Eucharistica, echoes of its ‘sister’ setting Missa Purificationis can clearly be recognized by some similar phrases; this is noteworthy since almost all Masses composed by Zelenka are different in style and have their own individual character and vision.

The influence of Hasse’s operatic style on Zelenka is noticeable in the soprano aria ‘Christe eleison’ and as Wolfgang Horn pointed out, its ‘perfectly’ structured menuetto in the ritornello. But it is the beautiful and moving alto aria ‘Qui tollis’, with its exquisite part for the chalumeau which makes the strongest impression. Here, Zelenka draws on the similarly sombre mood as in the duet ‘Recordare, Jesu pie’ for alto and tenor from the Requiem (ZWV 46) for August II from April that same year. No doubt written for the Italian alto castrato Domenico Annibali and the virtuoso oboe and chalumeau player Wilhelm Hugo, ‘Qui tollis’ is a good example of Zelenka’s pure and unique aria style. As in the Missa Purificationis, the ‘Quoniam tu solus Sanctus’ is a duet for tenor and bass but here accompanied by solo parts for two transverse flutes, which would have been played by the virtuosos Pierre Gabriel Buffardin and Johann Joachim Quantz. And as in most of Zelenka’s Masses, he finishes on a high with a superb fugue on the ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’.

Credo (ZWV 31)

One of the duties of the Dresden court composers was to adapt the music of foreign masters for performance in the Catholic court church. For this purpose Zelenka and his colleague, Kapellmeister Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729), shortened, ‘stretched’, parodied and retexted compositions in their large private collections. The many copies of manuscripts Heinichen collected during his sojourn in Italy prior to his arrival in the Saxon capital in 1717, demonstrate how brutal this ‘remix’ process could be. Whole sections were crossed out or pages were glued together, thus obliterating long parts of the original music. A good example of Zelenka’s many reworkings in this fashion is seen in his copy of Antonio Caldara’s Missa Providentiae, which the Bohemian acquired sometime in the late 1720s, possibly directly from the Italian composer in Vienna or his contacts in Czech lands. Caldara’s Mass consists of Kyrie and Gloria only, from which Zelenka created the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. However, for the Credo (ZWV 31) Zelenka wrote new music in four parts. And this well-crafted composition is among his finest settings of this text, strikingly original and effective. In the frantic opening we can hear the echoes of some of the vesper psalms from this period, but the real pearl here is the breathtaking ‘Crucifixus’. The slow walking rhythm conjures up graphic images of the suffering Christ carrying the cross on his way to the crucifixion and later, his burial. After a typically energetic ‘Et resurrexit’ and a solemn ‘Et unum sanctam Catholicam’ for three voices ‘senza stromenti’, the music ends with a an absolutely irresistible chromatic ‘Amen’ fugue, somewhat reminiscent of the ebb and flow of the same subject in the Beatus vir (ZWV 75).

Incidentally, Caldara’s Mass has received renewed attention lately, following the revelation that the Sanctus (BWV 239), long attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, was almost certainly been copied from Zelenka’s copy of Caldara’s Gloria. This is further evidence of the regular contacts between Zelenka and Bach, who from the mid-1730s were both listed as being in the service of August III as church composers, the Leipzig cantor, it should be noted, in title only.

Te Deum (ZWV 145)

One work stands out among Zelenka’s oeuvre in the 1720s: this is the large-scale secular Sub olea pacis et palmis virtutis: Melodrama de Sancto Wenceslao (ZWV 175), which he composed for the festivities held in Prague for the coronation of emperor Charles VI as king of Bohemia in September 1723, 300 years ago. The fact that Zelenka was chosen by the Prague Jesuits for this important task confirms his standing and reputation at the time as being the primo composer amongst his Bohemian compatriots. The great reception of the music, which was praised by the emperor-king and the nobility alike – resulting in a repeat performance of the music – meant that this was perhaps Zelenka’s greatest artistic success in his lifetime. There is little doubt that this spectacular triumph in Prague further elevated Zelenka’s status as a composer in Dresden and in time more important commissions came his way. Soon after his return to Saxony late in 1723 he began to recycle the lavishly orchestrated arias and choruses from Sub olea pacis in some of his works, including the Te Deum (ZWV 145).

DNI 152

It is still a mystery for which occasion the music was written. Zelenka’s first biographer Norbert Schulz, who examined the composer’s manuscripts pre-1945 for his doctoral thesis, provided the date 24.3.1724 in his discussion of the work. Perhaps he saw this date written on the now missing set of parts, since Zelenka’s autograph is undated. But the problem is, there is no report of any Te Deum performances during that period in any of the Dresden annals, including the Jesuit diaries, which meticulously recorded when the Ambrosian hymn was sung in the Catholic court church. In fact, only one performance of the Te Deum is recorded as being heard in Dresden in 1724; on 26 November (26.9.1724), two days after the birth of the Saxon princess Maria Amalia. On that day, the Dresden Jesuits reported in their diary that Heinichen had performed (‘fecit’ = Latin) music with the castrati and the royal trumpeters had played intradas during the Mass and at the Te Deum. However, since none of Heinichen’s three settings of the Te Deum correspond even remotely to the year 1724, it is tempting to ask if the German composer had, for some unknown reason, directed Zelenka’s composition on this occasion? And is it possible that Norbert Schulz misread the date and it should have been 24.9.1724 – a date that places the composition firmly into the proximity of the said Te Deum?

Admittedly, this is only wild speculation. But, there is another factor here timewise which strengthens this hypothesis. In October 1724 a group of seven Italian opera singers arrived in Dresden, having been hired in Italy especially for the Hofkapelle. This included four male singers: the soprano Andrea Ruota and the alto Nicolo Pozzi, both castrati; the bass Cosimo Ermini and the star of group, tenor Matteo Luchini. Their arrival was a godsend for the Dresden court composers and opened up entirely new possibilities in how to write for the solo voice in their music. Pozzi and Ermini went on to have long and successful careers in the Saxon capital but Luchini was ruthlessly dismissed in the beginning of 1731, as was Ruota at the end of that year. Nevertheless, it was for these four singers that Zelenka composed so many great solo arias and ensemble parts. And there is perhaps no coincidence that the two arias and one duet in his 1724 Te Deum seem perfectly tailored for the four newly arrived Italians.

For the majestic opening of the Te Deum with trumpets and timpani blasting, Zelenka reworked the final chorus ‘Vos orient adoret’ from Sub olea pacis. As expected, the first of the two arias in the work was written for the great Luchini: ‘Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus’ is a virtuosic aria for the tenor; with the oboes silent and the violini unisoni the music does at times remind one of arias written by Zelenka’s teacher in Vienna, the imperial composer Johann Joseph Fux. At the ‘Salvum fac’ the composer has written ‘tacet’ and this suggests that this section should be intoned, but he does not leave any further clues on how. Fortunately, in Zelenka’s autograph of his second setting of the Te Deum from 1731 (ZWV 146), three small folios for tenor, bass and continuo (‘organo e violone’), for the ‘Salvum fac’ in Gregorian style have been inserted into the score and this is what we hear on this recording. This is soon followed by a delightful soprano and alto duet ‘Per singulos dies’, the music of which is a reworking of the duet ‘Jam calle secundo’ in Sub olea pacis. The final aria once again originates in the Prague melodrama: this is the brilliant bass aria ‘Dignare Domine (II)’, which Ermini no doubt would have have delivered in some style. Following a pleading ‘Miserere’, the music is brought to an end with the magnificent triple fugue ‘In te Domine speravi’.

Finally, there is much to admire in Zelenka’s first setting of the Ambrosian hymn, especially the bright and lucid parts for the choir. His rich and varied choruses of different tempi, expressions and emotions maintain an impressive momentum throughout. The music and the concerted choruses heard on this recording very much anticipates Zelenka’s great musical output of the 1730s and 1740s.

Jóhannes Ágústsson

DNI 152Ensemble Inégal was founded in the year 2000. Under the leadership of its conductor Adam Viktora, it earned international acclaim thanks to its highly praised concerts and awarded CD-recordings, thus becoming synonymous with the ongoing rediscovery of the legacy of the ingenious Czech baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, of whose works it performed and recorded an unparalleled number of World Premieres. The interpretative range of the highly versatile Ensemble Inégal spans from renaissance to contemporary music. In addition to early music, the ensemble has on its account innovatory performances and recordings of romantic (Dvořák, Rossini) and contemporary music (Britten, Pärt).

Ensemble Inégal has performed on prestigious European festivals such as the Prague Spring Festival, Musica Antiqua Brugge, Oude Muziek Utrecht, Lufthansa Festival London, Aschaffenburger Bachtage, Bach Festival Riga and many others. Ensemble Inégal has recorded 10 successful CDs earning a range of international awards (Diapason d’or, IRR Outstanding, Goldberg 5 stars, a.o.), it features regularly in broadcasts of Czech and foreign television and radio stations (BBC, EBU, Czech Television, Czech Radio, Deutschlandradio Kultur, a.o.).

Since 2007, Ensemble Inégal organizes its own concert series “Czech Baroque Music – Discoveries & Surprises”. The uniqueness of this project lies in the fact that each year it presents to the public musical discoveries and concert premieres of baroque music by Czech composers or from Czech music archives. The most significant “Discoveries & Surprises” concerts premiered works by J.D. Zelenka, A. Vivaldi, H.I.F. Biber, S. Capricornus, J.C.F. Fischer, J.J.I. Brentner, M. Vogt, J.H. Schmelzer, a.o.

For the year 2012, Ensemble Inégal is preparing more significant renditions of Zelenka’s magnificent music, e.g. his breakthrough work Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis and a performance of his large-scale Italian oratorio for Good Friday Il Serpente di Bronzo, which will be part of the Prague Spring Festival program. In preparation is a new CD for this year, in which Ensemble Inégal presents its audience with another world-premiere, its eighth recording in a row of a Zelenka work.

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© Studio Svengali, April 2024
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