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View Full Version : For Zelenka fans in the Bay Area: Three upcoming performances of ZWV 18



rnkt
28-09-2015, 05:43 PM
A Bohemian Masterpiece
Zelenka "Missa Votiva"

Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 8pm at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 8pm at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Palo Alto
Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 4pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley

For more info see http://www.calbach.org/season.html

rnkt
18-10-2015, 12:09 AM
Well, the first review of the Bay Area "Votiva" concert is out and makes for "interesting" reading:

http://www.examiner.com/article/california-bach-society-s-zelenka-performance-disappoints

When I read the title "California Bach Society’s Zelenka performance disappoints" I thought probably this is going to be a sorry story about a choir/orchestra/soloists who were simply not up to the task (performing Votiva is not a piece of cake after all). But no! The reviewer said nothing about the actual performance but rather laid into the music itself. That's not cricket! My favourite sentence: "Indeed, for a composer with “operatic” virtues, the instrumental music seemed to pay little heed to the text and for the many variations in emotional disposition associated with that text." Is there a baroque (or classical for that matter) mass setting apart from the B minor mass which handles the "emotional disposition" of the mass text better than Zelenka's Votiva?

I guess it is quite feasible that the performance lacked the necessary energy and polish and did not sparkle like it should. This mass, when performed well should shout out "I'm alive!!!" (which is precisely the point Zelenka wanted to make by writing it of course).

Let's hope that this reviewer does not get assigned a Zelenka concert again!

RNKT

Xanaseb
18-10-2015, 01:44 AM
I saw this too and was a bit taken aback! Without having attended or heard the performance it's difficult to say, but I think it was partly a result of the reviewer's personal tastes. (But also bearing in mind that this is a 30 voice choir)

"There was certainly considerable vigor in the instrumental accompaniment, which Flight led at an energetic clip. However, the basic “tone of voice” in the orchestral writing established itself at the very beginning and went through little variation as the Mass text unfolded."

...perhaps he was expecting timpanies, trumpets, flutes and such?

His intro on Zelenka could be worse, but it misses out precisely what rnkt states about Zelenka's emotional dedication. Instead he seems to trivialise the whole masterpiece as some tedious Catholic ritual that has few-to-no interesting qualities.

How he got that sense from the music is beyond me, unless the interpretation was off.

Sebastian

Alistair
18-10-2015, 11:17 AM
The reviewer's background on Zelenka is a bit shaky to say the least. He should have skimmed through Janice Stockigt's book to fill in some of the historical gaps in his knowledge. What a negative little review in response to a great initiative in California. And we didn't even get to find out how the performance was!

rnkt
18-10-2015, 11:38 AM
It turns out that the reviewer is a "pioneering researcher in computer-assisted music theory". He probably looks down on all baroque music apart from that which is "computer-generated" i.e. JS Bach. ;)

I just feel sorry for the performers and conductor of the concert. If that was my performance I would be pretty miffed by that kind of review. I would be happier to hear if my oboes were out of tune or my choir was lagging behind than having the rug pulled from under me with criticism of the music itself! Well, perhaps there is some kind of Bay Area music scene politics which we don't know about.

- RNKT

rnkt
21-10-2015, 01:18 PM
That's more like it....

https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/California-Bach-Society/Cal-Bach-Society-Revives-Zelenka-s-Bohemian-Masterpiece

Xanaseb
21-10-2015, 05:30 PM
That's more like it....

https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/California-Bach-Society/Cal-Bach-Society-Revives-Zelenka-s-Bohemian-Masterpiece

Indeed! He was very appraising of Zelenka and experiencing the piece, in stark contrast to the first review.

This was nice too:

'The concert opened the ensemble’s 45th season, and the date also coincided with Zelenka’s 336th birthday — reason for celebratory cupcakes and the singing of “Happy Birthday” during intermission.'

rnkt
21-10-2015, 06:12 PM
Indeed! He was very appraising of Zelenka and experiencing the piece, in stark contrast to the first review.

This was nice too:

'The concert opened the ensemble’s 45th season, and the date also coincided with Zelenka’s 336th birthday — reason for celebratory cupcakes and the singing of “Happy Birthday” during intermission.'

... i hope they sung it at counterpoint, in a minor key and with lots of syncopation, just as JDZ would have intended. And I do wonder what kind of decoration the Zelenka birthday cupcakes had - having personally taken part in a cupcake crawl in San Francisco, I can testify that they can reach high, even baroque levels of elaborateness in that city!

Rik1
23-10-2015, 02:22 PM
I saw this too and was a bit taken aback! Without having attended or heard the performance it's difficult to say, but I think it was partly a result of the reviewer's personal tastes. (But also bearing in mind that this is a 30 voice choir)

"There was certainly considerable vigor in the instrumental accompaniment, which Flight led at an energetic clip. However, the basic “tone of voice” in the orchestral writing established itself at the very beginning and went through little variation as the Mass text unfolded."

...perhaps he was expecting timpanies, trumpets, flutes and such?

His intro on Zelenka could be worse, but it misses out precisely what rnkt states about Zelenka's emotional dedication. Instead he seems to trivialise the whole masterpiece as some tedious Catholic ritual that has few-to-no interesting qualities.

How he got that sense from the music is beyond me, unless the interpretation was off.

Sebastian

A disappointing read. However, (to give an opposing view) I have found that for some people the problem with Zelenka (and their perception) is that his music features a lot of high baroque excesses that is often the reason they don't like Bach for example. So I have heard people tell me that they don't like 'Big endless fugues, weird twisting harmony that loses it's way, relentless noisy energy, OTT virtuosity. For me these are things I love, but for people who don't like this kind of thing Zelenka will inevitably be at the peak of their hate. He typifies some of the things that some will criticise about the era in general. As Zelenka tends to the extreme at times, he will divide opinion and cause controversy.

I find that to get the most out of Zelenka it helps if you are already fairly familiar with the musical language of the day. That way, you can hear how he breaks the rules and feel the different sonority's within the 18th century musical landscape - like merging the operatic with the religious etc. Otherwise, some of Zelenka's music can be at risk of sounding like a big wave of sound that makes your head spin and be tiresome to listen to. I have found this just from some experience exposing people who don't like the Bach to Zelenka. It makes interesting conversation and reminds me that what I hear in the music can be very different from someone else's.

Nevertheless, a critique on Zelenka's compositional technique does not equal a review of a concert.

I do love the comment at the bottom of that review left by a member of the California Bach Society which sums up our collective thoughts no doubt.