View Full Version : New Bedford Symphony Orchestra - Magnificat ZWV 108 - 1st Dec

19-11-2013, 01:40 AM
I post this mainly because of this impassioned article on the Czech master, written by Dr. David MacKenzie on the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra website, under the title: "A Musical State Secret: The Greatest Composer You've (probably) Never Heard":


There are a couple of faults.. for eg.)
"Although Zelenka did eventually receive in 1735 an appointment as "Composer to the Royal Chapel," a largely honorary post with little pay increase, it seems obvious that he was bitterly disappointed by being passed over. To make matters worse, he would lose even this minor appointment a mere year later, to his colleague J. S. Bach."

Is that even correct? I was under the impression that both Zelenka *and* Bach held this position at the same time. Two separate coinciding posts of 'Church Composer.'

He also mistakenly confuses Johann Gottlob Kittel (who wrote the poem shown in this thread (http://www.jdzelenka.net/forums/showthread.php?125-Zelenka-the-perfect-VIRTUOS!)) with Johann Christian Kittel (one of J.S Bach's last students)... easy mistake, but -big- difference!

More of Zelenka's work was disseminated after his death than is sometimes realised, so to call it a State Secret might be a slight over-exaggeration too? (saying this does arouse interest in the composer at least)

Good to have word of Zelenka spread in anycase :)

20-11-2013, 01:00 AM
Dear Xanaseb,

one more concert programme with the usual errors... but Zelenka loosing his "minor appointment" to Bach?! That's a new twist and of course utter bollocks. I wonder where on earth that came from. It sometimes seems to me, that some of those who write about Zelenka are in a competition to outdo each other when it comes to describing the supposed "misery" of our composer!

It is interesting that the Bach literature, all the way from the 18th century to the present date, correctly states that the royal court composer title (AKA Kirchen-Compositeur – honorary) Bach received in 1736 was considered prestigious, and did protect him from the endless problems he had earlier been facing from the Leipzig authorities. In fact, he became untouchable (see C.Wolff's biography on the composer). Cue the Zelenka literature, where the appointment of the same title for Zelenka (which, by the way, he had already been awarded in 1734 – not 1735) has either been described as "degrading" or "lowly". This opinion, first put forward by Wolfgang Reich and consequently copied by other musicologists without any scrutiny or criticism, shows a fundamental misunderstanding/misconception of the role sacred music played in the Catholic church in Dresden – for a deeply religious court, where Maria Josepha, electress of Saxony and Queen of Poland, and guardian of our composer, often went to church three times a day, to take one example. Some of the descriptions in the original sources on the effect the music in the church had on members of the royal family is simply breathtaking. The role and responibility of the church composer was great, and Zelenka fulfilled that role to the full admiration of his superiors. As I have earlier stated here in this Forum, this court only strived for the best in every department, be it the opera with Hasse, church music with Zelenka, and instrumental music with Pisendel. And in all the sources I've seen in the Dresden archives during my research over the last nine years, Zelenka is spoken about with reverence.

I am glad you question these things. Don't believe everything that's out there. There is just so much rubbish that has been written about Zelenka and, for example, his supposed bitter disappointment. There are simply no sources to back up such statements. This is what I refer to as "emotive language" in my Zelenka article for the "Studi vivaldiani" journal, which will soon be published:

"Instead, speculation about his [Zelenka's] supposed competition with Hasse for the Kapellmeister position has dominated the discussion, followed by the familiar but unsubstantiated statements that he felt deeply disappointed, angry and frustrated after he ‘lost’ this duel, and that he was suffering from “creative exhaustion” or “stress and anxiety” at the end of the Interregnum. The use of such emotive language has, unfortunately, become the norm when Zelenka is concerned – and not only in musicology but also in CD booklets and concert programmes."

I am hoping that those who will eventually read my article will do so with an open mind.

But, Xanaseb, as you say, it's great that this wonderful music is being heard and spread around. So here's to all the brave and brilliant performers out there!