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.