Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) was a contemporary of Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel who spent the majority of his career in Dresden. As Goldberg Magazine says: "Zelenka's music is always fresh and creative. His instrumental works often surprise the listener with sudden turns of harmony . . . Zelenka's choral works are difficult to place in time; in his eclectic mix of drama, counterpoint and depth of feeling one could almost be listening to a Schubert Mass. Here again as in his instrumental works, listeners should expect the unexpected."
I Penitenti al Sepolcro del Redentore ("The Penitents at the Tomb of the Redeemer") is an oratorio composed by Zelenka in 1736. The text involves King David, Mary Magdalene, and St. Peter discussing Christ. The work includes an introductory sinfonia, a closing chorus, and a series of recitatives and large scale da capo arias (two a piece for David and Mary Magdalene). Musically, the piece exemplifies Zelenka's charming, quirky creativity, with rich rythmic variety and spicy harmony.
Collegium 1704, led by Vaclav Luks, is probably the top ensemble recording Zelenka today. The performers' love for and commitment to Zelenka shines in this performance, which is well sung and well played all around. Their style is as vibrant and fresh as Zelenka's music.
If you already know Zelenka, you won't want to miss this recording. If you enjoy baroque sacred music, you will thoroughly charmed by this addition to your collection. Highly recommended.