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Zelenka - Missa Votiva

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Product details

  • Conductor: None
  • Composer: None
  • Audio CD (13 Oct. 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Zig-Zag Territoires
  • ASIN: B001AS6A9G
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,445 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Missa votiva - 20 Tracks On 1 Disc - Jan Dismas Zelenka

Product Description

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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 May 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The output of the virtually forgotten Jan Dismas Zelenka is undergoing a thoroughly deserved rediscovery of late, and this work stands as possibly the brightest star in his firmament. In 1739 he fell gravely ill, as the autograph score indicates, and vowed to compose a mass upon his recovery; this, his votive offering as thanks, is the result.

There is no abject plea in this Kyrie, no grovelling reverence and admiration in the Gloria. This is music of unbounded joy, reaching a zenith in the Gloria on the text "gratias agimus tibi Domine".

The vocal ensemble Collegium Vocale 1704 have a relatively tight arrangement of 17 personnel giving great dynamism without being overly "choral", and the soloists among them are superb. The music performed by Collegium 1704 is wonderfully brisk under the direction of Václav Luks, and the recorded sound quality is excellent.

The disc comes in a foldout digipak with booklet providing some excellent notes in English/French plus Latin sung texts with English/French translations. An outstanding set, and an absolute essential for any Baroque music lover.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zelenka's Great Masses Now Take Center Stage 19 Sept. 2009
By Doug - Haydn Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
In an age of great choral works, dominated by such long established musical giants as Handel and Bach, Zelenka's only recent emergence and fame must still be explained to most music-lovers. To a great extent location plays a major part - Zelenka's music was rarely performed up until the last two decades. Communist takeovers of Eastern Europe following the Second World War meant that little was heard from there in the way of church music - the leader of this Zelenka Mass writes about how as a boy he and his friends would collect all the recordings they could find of the German early music group Antique Koln in much the same way Russian youths coveted jazz and rock music from America. Forbidden fruit! So at a time when the West was recording Baroque music in great quantities and developing a historical performance tradition, the music of Zelenka sat pretty much undiscovered and unchampioned, a mere historcial footnote. Only with the collapse of the Iron Curtain could Zelenka, like his new supporters, burst out onto the world, as avid restorers of a national heritage, such as Collegium 1704, gave his lost music a new life.

A free Eastern Europe has meant many new opportunities, including in a very short time the chance to hear the music of local forgotten great Zelenka. His music has now been recognized, performed, and widely applauded. Highly intellectual, extremely complicated, pursuing musical themes longer than even those of Berlioz, forever delighting in odd or quirky harmonies, Zelenka's music is quite unlike that of any other composer. And it is in his Masses that to these remarkable gifts he brings a final blessing - passion. Zelenka achieves complete success in his last Masses, combining a tremendous musical intelligence with an operatic sense of drama.

The Missa Votiva here recorded from a live concert in France is one of the most recent efforts of Zig Zag recordings, a novel and excellent label. The conductor and his ensemble, Collegium 1704, take their name from the composer's first known composition, and, as one might expect from a group so named, are at the cutting edge of Zelenka scholarship. This group can also be heard at their very inception back around 1995 in several orchestral works of the composer Zelenka: Composizione per Orchestra

Among many, many highlights of this supremely achieved writing is a phenomenal Cum Santo Spiritu II, with Zelenka's taste for complex counterpoint running away with him in a spirit of pure exhilaration. Many of the sections explode onto the listener with an intensity and power that is almost overhwelming. It is not surprising that many have commented on how much Zelenka's last Masses, with their intensity and pathos seem to foreshawdow Mozart's Requiem. The orchestral writing creates quite striking effects, with the composers trademark unexpected harmonic writing galvanizing the music in the most unexpected places. Soemone once suggested that Zelenka might be compared to Gesualdo - he certainly does share the earlier Italian's flair for unexpected and striking emotional outbursts.

Given the two other reviews full and thorough discussion of the Mass, I second their high praise in the hope that more people will give this fabulous and still under-appreciated composer a listen - This is one of the great works of the Baroque era, and should be part of any basic library of Baroque church music.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Overlooked Gem from Bach's Contemporary 1 Feb. 2009
By Qwerty - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
To my continued surprise, there was a LOT of really great music produced in "Germany" during the late Baroque, much of it by talented composers who have yet to make the playlists of classical radio stations. Sure, Leipzig-based J.S. Bach (1685-1750) was a genius. But, there is no denying the pleasures of listening to the compositions of Dresden-based composers Johann Heinichen (1683-1729), Gottfried Homilius (1714-1785), Johann Hasse (1699-1783), and Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). If you like Baroque choral/vocal music and you are not yet acquained with these composers, a lot of enjoyable discovery awaits you.

This album features the Missa Votica by Zelenka. Zelenka was born near Prague, studied in Dresden and Vienna, and was an assistant to Heinichen (Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony) in the 1720s. Zelenka was later given the title of church music composer and worked at the Catholic Court Church in Dresden until his death in 1745. Most of Zelenka's compositions are sacred works, including three oratorios and 21 masses.

Zelenka wrote the Missa Votiva in 1739 as a "thanksgiving" following his recovery from a long illness. It features a mix of styles current at the time, choral movements in the style of the concerto, sections in stile antico, or arias worthy of the most recent operas. As Baroque choral music goes, the work is expressive, energetic, and even dramatic. At times, it is achingly beautiful.

Collegium 1704 debuted in 2007 with the intention of researching and recording Zelenka's works. The group has both the talent and enthusiasm to showcase Zelenka's moving composition. I can vouch for the accuracy of the following review by James Manheim of "allmusic.com":

"The form of Zelenka's mass is borrowed from the sumptuous masses of southern Italy in the early eighteenth century, with each of the five major divisions of the mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) subdivided into individual numbers in the manner of an opera. Zelenka's realization of the form, however, is uniquely diverse. The parade of events in the mass is gripping, for the text has rarely been set so personally and vividly. Zelenka sets many of the arias in the galant operatic style of the day, with syncopations and orchestral effects, but these are exquisitely balanced with evocations of the antique. A piece of chant, as yet unidentified, weaves its way through the Credo, and Zelenka takes off in several different ways from a descending chromatic figure, tracing a fourth, that could have come from the polyphony of the early seventeenth century. There are several big fugues, and not where you expect them; one sets the "Crucifixus" text, and it leads into an extremely dramatic setting, alternating fast and slow passages, of the remainder of the Credo. Several of the arias are lovely, and the largely unknown Czech soloists are uniformly good; soprano Stanislava Mihalcová, heard in the Benedictus (track 17) is a standout. There are several instances of the pungent harmonies for which Zelenka's chamber music is known, each deployed with unerring timing."

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exclamations not expressive enough! 6 Nov. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I don't feel qualified to give an academic review (see the other reviews for that), but was compelled to let everyone know that this is an amazing recording. The power and energy of the performance are strikingly beautiful. I have enjoyed an older Zelenka recording in my vinyl collection with Nicholas Harnencourt for the last 30 years, so I decided to try this based on the reviews. I was not disappointed--now this is hands down my favorite Zelenka. I was worried about it being choral, but found the variety of soloists and chorus, as well as the incredible composition never made a boring moment. The bass is full and the instruments really pack a punch! Definitely buy this now (or at least put it in your wish list).
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental and Passionate 30 Mar. 2009
By Gio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Jan Dismas Zelenka's 65-minute 'Votive Mass' is dauntingly passionate and unfathomably deep. You won't hear 'all of it' on your first listening, or even first ten listenings. It isn't just 'more baroque.' It's a visionary masterpiece that surveys the musical resources of the centuries before and after its composition in 1739.
It can be compared to Bach's B-minor Mass, Mozart's Requiem, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, and it takes second place to none.

The comparison to Mozart's Requiem is most pertinent. Both masses are late works, suffused with the awareness of the fragility of life; both were written amid their composers' ill health and disappointment with their careers. Both begin with dire announcements of mortality, with remarkably similar musical affect. In both, the sweeping choral melodies are punctuated by alarms from the wind instruments. Both are alternately despairing and exultant, though Mozart's despair is more pervasive while Zelenka's seems more conditioned by sincere religious faith. The Credo of the Missa Votiva, unlike almost any other mass that comes to mind, is an unqualified declaration of confidence in the resurrection it describes. Credos were always a `problem' for Renaissance and Baroque composers focused on musical structures. So many words to set! Such disproportion! Zelenka solves the musical problem and simultaneously announces his religious faith by making his credo almost entirely triumphant, balancing the agonized plea for mercy of the Kyrie and the fearful awe of the Gloria. Both the Requiem and the Votive Mass throb with subliminal anger and defiance, but Zelenka seems to have found a comfort in his religious expectations that Mozart couldn't. Of course, Mozart ran out of time for his own Requiem. Who knows how gloriously he might have finished it!

The Missa Votiva was actually composed, by Zelenka's own declaration, in fulfillment of a vow the composer made in 1739, that if he recovered from a grave illness he would compose such a massive Mass. It was performed ONCE, on July 2nd, 1739, and then almost lost forever. Unlike Italy and France, Austria and Catholic courts of Germany had a 17th C tradition of regarding the compositions of their musicians as `court property', not to be published and shared. A very large part of 17th and early 18th C German Baroque music was thus consigned to oblivion, or else survived in single manuscripts in obscure archives. Zelenka was in no great favor in the court of Dresden anyway, so it's small wonder that his reputation was stifled until the latter decades of the 20th Century.

As I said, this is a monumental composition, scored for chorus with soloists and for a full orchestra of strings plus oboes, bassoon, organ, and lute. There were at least 23 separate lines in parts. Passages of `prima prattica' polyphony alternate with operatic `secunda prattica' arias, but the full ensemble passages of chorus and instruments dominate the work to a degree that really does foretell the future of music from Mozart to Mahler.

Zelenka was Czech who composed in Saxony, and has been advocated by Czech and East German musicians on nationalistic grounds though his musical genius needs no such advocacy. Baroque music was definitely not in official favor, however, under the communist regimes, and recordings of it made in Czechoslovakia and Hungary before the mid 1990s were "iffy" at best. The performers on this CD -- the Collegium 1704 led by Václav Luks -- are of the newer generation, many of them trained at the Schola Cantorum of Basel, and they are as skilled and as stylish as their peers in France and Italy. It's still two days short of April as I write, but I'm calling this my "must buy" CD of the month, hoping that April 2009 will be less `cruel' financially than March has been.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 8 Feb. 2010
By Daniel Moriarty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Zalenka's mass is a deeply felt, compelling liturgical drama that presents Baroque choral music as it should be heard, i.e. by small ensembles with period instruments and a limited chorus. Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 are marvelously talented and musically breathtaking. Their founder and director, Vaclav Luks is a brilliant musician who is gaining increasing recognition for both his group and himself. They have made this mass a remarkable experience for me. Bravo!
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