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Sacred Music By


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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 1 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Hyperion UK
  • ASIN: B00008IHWD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #192,040 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento Z147
2. Regina coeli laetare Z134
3. Salve Regina, mater misericordiae Z135
4. Lectiones (from Officium Defunctorum Z47)
5. Invitatorium (from Officium Defunctorum Z47)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23 2003
Format: Audio CD
Zelenka (1679-1745) is a composer whose music can easily sound clunky and bloated in the wrong hands. King's recording brings all of Zelenka's stunning (sometimes spine-tingling) harmonies and intricate counterpoint into stunning 3D relief. The opening Kyrie of the Litanae has a bizarre opening chord that hits your right in the gut--not unlike the opening Kyrie of Bach's B minor mass.
King has a wonderful ability to bring this sharp yet nuanced approach to Handel (especially in his wonderful recording of Handel's Choice of Hercules), and he has brought his magical touch to Zelenka. Every instrument--including the rich obbligato accompaniments to the vocal soloists (flue, chalemeau, oboes)--and every vocal part is distinct without ruining the coherence of the overall sound.

Without question, Zelenka was a musical oddball--his music is never predictable. King's talent is making his unpredictable music sound "natural" and passionate. Zelenka really suffers if any of the musicians sound like they are just going through the motions. The King's Consort and Choir really seems musically and emotionally invested in this recording, and it shows!
This is not meant to be background music, and can be compared to an extraordinarly rich multi-course course dinner at Bookbinder's or Locke Ober in terms of its intensity. The harmonies are rich, the orchestration ornate, and the music gravitates between stateliness and melancholy. If one wants cucumber sandwiches and pinot grigio, buy the music of J.A. Hasse--the man who beat Zelenka to the post of Dresden Kapellmeister in 1733.
Although this CD is expensive, I strongly recommend it. Zelenka definitely ranks up there in the Bach-Handel-Vivaldi genius level.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
King brings Zelenka into stunning relief June 23 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Zelenka (1679-1745) is a composer whose music can easily sound clunky and bloated in the wrong hands. King's recording brings all of Zelenka's stunning (sometimes spine-tingling) harmonies and intricate counterpoint into stunning 3D relief. The opening Kyrie of the Litanae has a bizarre opening chord that hits your right in the gut--not unlike the opening Kyrie of Bach's B minor mass.
King has a wonderful ability to bring this sharp yet nuanced approach to Handel (especially in his wonderful recording of Handel's Choice of Hercules), and he has brought his magical touch to Zelenka. Every instrument--including the rich obbligato accompaniments to the vocal soloists (flue, chalemeau, oboes)--and every vocal part is distinct without ruining the coherence of the overall sound.

Without question, Zelenka was a musical oddball--his music is never predictable. King's talent is making his unpredictable music sound "natural" and passionate. Zelenka really suffers if any of the musicians sound like they are just going through the motions. The King's Consort and Choir really seems musically and emotionally invested in this recording, and it shows!
This is not meant to be background music, and can be compared to an extraordinarly rich multi-course course dinner at Bookbinder's or Locke Ober in terms of its intensity. The harmonies are rich, the orchestration ornate, and the music gravitates between stateliness and melancholy. If one wants cucumber sandwiches and pinot grigio, buy the music of J.A. Hasse--the man who beat Zelenka to the post of Dresden Kapellmeister in 1733.
Although this CD is expensive, I strongly recommend it. Zelenka definitely ranks up there in the Bach-Handel-Vivaldi genius level. However, unlike the three aforementioned composers, Zelenka's art is much less easily accessible. It is unlikely that Zelenka will have a popular piece that endears him to the public at large--Bach has his keyboard music and tocatta and fugue in D minor, Handel has his Fireworks and Water Music, and Vivaldi has his Four Seasons. His instrumental works are gaining recognisation, especially his trio sonatas for 2 oboes and bassoon, but I doubt they will remain curiosity virtuoso pieces rather than mainstream chamber music repetoire because of their quirkiness and extrordinary intellectual/musical demands on the performers and the audience. Catholic church music is not a particularly accessible medium, and it formed the bulk of Zelenka's output. His scoring is too lavish for most current day liturgical settings, and (having sung in a Protestant church choir) his settings might be a bit too "out there" for modern church audiences--Zelenka faced the same problem in pre-Vatican II Dresden, as did Bach in Lutheran Leipzig!! For now, Zelenka will probably be confined to the specialized concert hall and CD. Maybe I will be proved wrong, and Zelenka will be given his just due.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
At Times Zelenka Sounds Like Nobody Else ... March 15 2009
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
... with his quirky sense of instrumentation and his eccentric modulations, nobody else that is except Johann Sebastian Bach. If you've remained skeptical of the affinity between Bach and Zelenka, this CD should go a long way toward persuading you. It's not the language, obviously; these pieces by Zelenka are all in Latin. It's not the religious fervor; Zelenka was fervently Catholic. Two of the pieces recorded here are Marian devotions. The first and longest piece - Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento - was composed in 1727 for a Corpus Christi procession which had to be held inside the Dresden court chapel to avoid antagonizing the Lutheran populace. What then? It's the bold multi-layered complexity of the music, the density of counterpoint, the fabulous obbligatos, all of which would be incoherent if attempted by a lesser master. "Venite exultemus magistro musicae."

Zelenka's reputation doesn't profit, however, from too much comparison with Bach. His oeuvre is much smaller and narrower. He wrote nothing to match Bach's works for harpsichord and organ, or for solo cello or violin, or Bach's concertos. At least, no such music by Zelenka has survived the obscurity that settled over him in his last years and after his death. Fan club boosters of Zelenka's music have reason to hate the name of Johann Adolf Hasse, the extremely popular composer of operas who snatched the prized position of Kapellmeister in Dresden that Zelenka had 'earned' by long service. The embittered Zelenka wrote very little thereafter for the last decade of his life. And yet... Hasse was also a great composer. "Quid est homo quia magnificas eum?"

The five pieces on this CD were all written in the half-decade before Zelenka's great disappointment. The 'Lectiones' and "Invitatorium' were written for the funeral of Augustus the Strong, Zelenka's patron, but it was the next Elector of Saxony, Friedrich Augustus II, who cast Zelenka aside. "Ecce nunc in pulvere dormiam et si mane me quaesieris non subsistam."

This splendid music deserves a more consistent performance. Only portions of the recording really deserve five stars, but the music is so compelling that I can recommend it enthusiastically anyway. The instrumental work is excellent throughout, and that's the most exciting facet of Zelenka's music. The three male soloists - alto Robin Blaze, tenor James Gilchrist, and bass Michael George - are likewise excellent. Soprano Carolyn Sampson, on the other hand, is barely adequate; her voice is not especially lovely, her rapid passages sound labored, and she consistently sings on the gravity side of A415. The Choir of the King's Consort is atrocious, a pitchless rumble; fortunately their role is minimal except in the Litaniae. "Hodie si vocem Zelenkae audieritis nolite obdurare corda vestra."
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
a voice teacher and early music fan Nov. 25 2006
By George Peabody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
ROBERT KING AND THE KINGS CONSORT TOGETHER WITH SOME SKILLED SOLOISTS PRESENT HEREIN A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF THE WORKS OF ZELENKA!

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 sound somewhat like Bach, it actually takes its own path into less traditional (if somewhat less profound) musical territory.

This recording presents four representative sacred works by Jan Dismas Zelenka from the period of about 1727 to 1733 which Friedrich Rochlitz( a Leipzig Musicologist)held in high exteem for the 'admirable idiosyncrasy' of the harmonic language and 'ornately entwined' voices. We are treated herein to sacred works that show Zelenka at his most exquisitely functional (the Litinae) and most engaging and purely beautiful (Regina Coeli and Salve Regina). Throughout this program, whose works covera period of about six years, we can easily appreciate Zelenka's keen sense of color-scoring for parts such as muted oboes, chalameu, and muted strings; and his affecting way with fitting text to textures and groups of instruments.

The 'Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento in C major'were completed in June, 1727, and were written for the Corpus Christi procession on June 12. They consist of a series of 11 single musical numbers composed predominantly in an old-fashioned style of contrapuntal craftsmanship interrupted by occasional harmonic twists. The Marian antiphon 'Regina coeli laetare in F major' was written around 1728 and is remarkable for its musical scoring for three high voices. The Marian antiphon 'Salve regina,mater misericordiae in A minor',completed in 1730,is a generously scored and substantial solo motet of 5 movements whose fine, elaborated compositon is very much shaped by Zelenka's personal style,especially in its splendid quirks of orchestration.

The last four numbers of this disc are part of the 'Officium Defunctorum' from 1733, and contains 13 movements. The 'Invitatorium' (from the 'Officium Defunctorum') 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 soloist and interpolations from the chorus.

Highlights (at least for me) include 'Pater de coelis' duet (Litinae), and the beautiful little choral 'Agnus Dei'that concludes the 'Litinae'. However, the 'Lectiones' from "Officium Defunctorium" remains my favorite work on the disc, which contains the solo voices of Carolyn Sampson (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor) and Peter Harvey (bass). All of the soloists deserve extra mention for their sensitive and appropriately expressive performances. In addition, the Chorus and Orchestra under the capable direction of Robert King are solid and confident, performing like the veteran period stylists that they are.

The package comes with adequate Liner Notes which have pertinent information as well as the Latin text and English translation.
Very enjoyable choral music Aug. 15 2013
By Sid Nuncius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc has been re-released at budget price Zelenka: Sacred Music (Hyperion: CDH55424). Below is my review from that page.

This is an enjoyable disc of very good sacred music by an under-appreciated contemporary of Bach. Zelenka wrote complex counterpoint which was well received in the early part of his career in his native Czechoslovakia but became regarded as rather old-fashioned in Dresden where he spent the later part of his career. This means that his music was not nearly as well-known as it should have been. In fact it is skilful, tuneful and capable of being charming, beautiful and moving in places. He's no Bach or Handel, but Zelenka was a very good composer and I find his music enjoyable and rewarding.

The King's consort do it proud here. They were a superb ensemble and many of their recordings remain the benchmark years after they were made. This one, from 2003, features a lineup of star soloists including Robin Blaze, Carolyn Sampson and Michael George and the others and the chorus give an excellent performance, as do the orchestra. It's exemplary singing and playing in this repertoire and makes the music really shine.

This would be a very good place to start with Zelenka if you don't know him, and would sit very well in a collection of him, too. The recorded sound is excellent and the notes full and interesting with full texts and translations. Very warmly recommended all round.


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