COLORFUL,COMPLEX,ORNATE, OLD-FASHIONED BUT LOOKING FORWARD, JAN DISMAS ZELENKA'S MUSIC NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE AND ENTERTAIN!
Jan Dismas Zelenka(1679-1745) was the most important Bohemian composer before Gluck. He wrote no operas and few instrumental works, but a great body of sacred music for the Catholic court at Dresden plus a few choice secular works. Only recently have his works come to light, but they show that he was an important and uniquely gifted composer, with a superb ear for melody, exceptional contrapuntal skills, and a sparing but effective penchant for surprising harmonious twists and unusual turns of phrase. While his music, on the surface, may appear somewhat like Bach, it actually takes its own path into less traditional and less profound musical territory. After all, there is only one J.S.Bach!
This recording presents four representative sacred works by Zelenka from the period of about 1727-1733 which Friedrich Rochlitz (a Leipzig musicologist) held in high esteem for the 'admirable idiosyncrasy; of the harmonic language and 'ornately entwined' voices. We are treated herein to sacred works engaging and purely beautiful(Regina Coeli and Salve Regina), and at his most exquisitely functional(the Litinae). All of these works display Zelenka's keen sense of color-scoring for parts such as muted oboes, clalameu and muted strings; and his affecting way with fitting text and groups of instruments.
The Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento in C major consists of eleven single musical numbers composed predominatly in an old-fashioned style of contrapuntal craftsmanship interrupted by occasional harmonic twists. The Marian antiphon 'Salve Regina in a minor' is a generously scored and substantial motet of five movements whose fine, elaborated composition is very much shaped by Zelenka's personal style, especially in its splendid quirks of orchestration.
The last four selections on this disc are part of the 'Officium Defunctorum' containing thirteen movements. The 'Invitatorium' from this work gives a powerful impression of Zelenka's choral style, presenting a mixture of modern, dramatic gestures of harmony, dynamics and scoring. The instrumental elements are mixed with passages of extended semi-recitative for the alto soloists and interpolations of the chorus. I found this work fascinating!
Highlights included 'Pater de coelis' duet (Litinae) and the beautiful little choral 'Agnus Dei' that concludes the Litinae. However, the 'Lectione' from the 'Officium Defunctorum' remain my favorite work on the disc. The six soloists are excellent, experienced as they are in Early Music, and the entire performance of Robert King and the choir of King's Consort is inspirational as is that of the instrumental group the King's Consort. Robert King provides a solid and confident leadership which I think assisted the soloists in their sensitve and expressive performances.
FANFARE: "The performance is outstanding, capturing the startlingly original nature of the piece with singing and playing of such vitality and oommitment."
The package comes with adequate liner notes which have pertinent information as well as the Latin text and English translation.