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Thread: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

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  1. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up


    at last I had a chance to write up my report on the Zelenka Festival and Conference, which has just ended in Prague. I see that Xanaseb and rnkt have already posted their comments about the concerts, and I don’t have much to add to that at the moment.

    I was very excited about the conference, mainly because of the presence of the Bach scholar Michael Maul. Knowing the groundbreaking archival work he has done as a part of his job at the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, this promised to be something. And it was. In his paper Maul presented a stunning new Zelenka document: an unknown letter in German written (by a copyist) from our composer in November 1740, where he vouched for the musical qualities of one Christian Siegmund Nitzschner, who was applying for the cantor and organist position in Pirna, a city in Saxony close to Dresden. From this document we learn that this Nitzschner, of whom we know absolutely nothing until know, was a fine musician and well qualified on numerous instruments and in the art of singing, and that Zelenka had taught him composition “fundamenta". Nitzschner's own petition to the city council in Pirna referred to his studies with the “berühmte (famous)” Zelenka. Amazingly, Nitzscher did not get the post he applied for as he was considered to be too old, even though prime minister Count Brühl, the most powerful man in the Saxony beside August III, also wrote a recommendation for Nitzscher and thus placing an enormous pressure on the Pirna authorities.

    The importance of this document is truly great:
    1. We learn of another Zelenka student. Sadly, no compositions seem to exist from Nitzschner’s pen.
    2. It was the obligation of court musicians in Dresden to nurture young musicians and train promising prospects for possible entry into the court orchestra. However, in this case Nitzschner was 53 years old and therefore no youngster anymore, which leads one to believe that he paid Zelenka for his studies. I also believe that he can not have been the only “outside” paying student/customer of Zelenka like this and if true, then the composer could have supplemented his salary considerably with his teachings. But it must be said also that we do not know when Nitzschner studied with Zelenka – most likely it was in the 1730s but perhaps even earlier.
    3. Nitzschner's reference to the “famous" Zelenka is yet another proof of the esteem in which he was held at the time.
    4. Next to Zelenka’s signature in the letter is his seal in red wax: this is the first and only example we have of this. Unfortunately, we could not see from the scan the details no doubt found in the seal – his official stamp of approval. All will be revealed by Maul in the published conference proceedings.
    5. New Zelenka documents are still surfacing!!

    Jan Stockigt read two papers – first her own overview of the events of the momentous year of 1733, when Saxon Elector and Polish King August II died in Warsaw and his son and successor Friedrich August took over the reigns. He had already by late 1730 taken over the direction of the court orchestra from his father, as I have demonstrated in my article on Zelenka’s secular vocal collection. Based on entries in published court documents, entries in the Jesuit diaries and the Jesuit letters to Rome, diary entries of the young Crown Prince Friedrich Christian, plus the known activities/petitions of the Dresden musicians and musical events, Stockigt presented a calender table for the whole year, each month and the most important dates. Many new conclusions can be reached when seeing the events of the year presented this way, the most important outcome of which is, in my opinion, Jan’s very well argued hypothesis that Missa Eucaristica (ZWV 15) was performed at the end of May that year. Also, by listing in details of the Erbhuldigung (homage) ceremonies held in the various Saxon cities for Friedrich August as the new Elector, Stockigt was able to demonstrate the religious shift of new ruler: the court was now going full blast Catholic, while August II had danced an admirable ballet between the two religions – Protestant and Catholic – after his conversion in 1697, in order to gain the Polish Crown.

    Unfortunately, Andrew Frampton had to cancel his conference appearance, but Jan Stockigt (as his mentor and supervisor in Melbourne) saved the day by reading his thesis study on the Missa Sancti Spiritus (ZWV 4). Having heard Stockigt speak well about this scholar for many years, this was my first exposure to Andrew's research on the manuscript sources of Zelenka. And I and others were very impressed: this was forensic work that uncovered the full compositional history of the Mass and its revisions, through watermarks, palaeography and handwriting. It is hoped that Andrew will devote more of his time to Zelenka studies.

    Claudia Lubkoll cancelled her talk on the paper and watermark sources on Zelenka’s Psalms, which was a real shame given that in last year’s conference her insights brought a fresh new angle on Zelenka’s compositions. Anselm Hartinger also cancelled his much anticipated talk but once again Jan Stockigt came to the rescue by supplying an unpublished paper about the Italian and French styles in Dresden and the mixed style ("vermischter Geschmack”). Michaela Freemanová, who moderated the conference, read the paper on Stockigt’s behalf. Afterwards, a discussion took place on the terminology in use of the works of Zelenka and others, of the French and Italian, f.e. Hautbois/Oboe, or Sonata or Suonata. Did this perhaps refer to the different way of interpreting the music in question? I look forward to see Stockigt’s conclusions in what is hopefully a forthcoming publication of her study.

    Wolfgang Horn discussed the compositional forms of the late Masses, while Clemens Harasim examined Zelenka’s Magnifcat settings in context with other versions of this text. It will be great to see their studies in print in the forthcoming conference publication.

    To conclude: Like last year, this second Zelenka Festival Conference brought us much new information. But is it possible to have a conference every year with new information and insights into Zelenka’s music? This is the big question and it was much debated amongst the participants this year. I do think this is achievable, but it will only happen if there is more input from the Czech musicologists and/or students of the music of the baroque period. The lack of Czech speakers this year was surprising, and begs the question: why is there no serious systematic research/study project being undertaken in the higher educational institutes in Zelenka's country of birth, now, for what seems to be a very long period? At the same time his music is being championed by all the great Czech baroque ensembles, such as Adam Viktora and his Ensemble Inegale, Vaclav Luks and his Collegium 1704, Marek Stryncl and his Musica Florea, Jana Semerádová and her Collegium Marianum, and last but not least the pioneer Robert Hugo and his Musica Regia. The balance doesn’t seem to be right here.

    But, something wonderful has come out of this all, thanks to Adam and Gabriela. The last year’s proceedings have now been published for all to see, see the link provided by Xanaseb above, containing a wealth of new information which I hope will be welcomed by all Zelenka lovers. Also, Odie, one of the members of the Forum who I had the great pleasure of meeting before the last concert, showed us a recent study which, I think, discussed a church cantor somewhere in the Czech lands, who performed a wide range of Zelenka works over a long period in the years after WWII. A reception study such as this would have belonged to the conference. So, perhaps Czech musicologists are working on our Zelenka after all, but I usually draw blank looks from my Czech colleagues when I ask about these things.

    Finally, one of the best things was the chance to finally meet in person and spend time with some of the contributers to this Forum, like rnkt who was there with his head full of Zelenka, and his exciting plans for making an edition for the keyboard as we have followed here in the Forum. And Xanaseb, whose very impressive knowledge and burning passion for Zelenka we all know so well. I do hope that Jan Stockigt managed to infect him further with the Zelenka virus in their many meetings during the week in Prague, as indeed happened to me in Dresden back in 2005 – a life-altering moment which led to a very rewarding path of discovery with Zelenka.
    Last edited by djdresden; 20-11-2016 at 09:56 PM.

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