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Thread: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Hi good people,

    If anyone who's going to the Prague festival next week would be interested in meeting at some point, then please PM me to discuss. I already know one or two! I will be there for the whole thing (bar the Dresden concert)

    On Thursday 20th Oct, I will also be going on a trip to Zelenka's birthplace, Louňovice pod Blaníkem. You are very welcome to join - pm for details of the journey.

    All the best,

    Seb

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Hi Seb, I tried to send you a Private Mail, but your Mailbox seems to be full ... I received an error message
    I arrive in Prague on Friday Night; mail me via testudolegens@hotmail.com and I will write back!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Hope you enjoy. For those who read Czech or do no mind using google translate, here is an interview with Viktora on the Zelenka festival: http://operaplus.cz/adam-viktora-o-z...e-varhan/?pa=1.
    By the way it mentions this forum.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Very curious to know how it was.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Hey Msl - it was absolutely brilliant!! Sorry that nothing has been posted yet. I ask for your patience, I am bogged down in work and other duties
    There is a *lot* to mention and discuss. I understand now how djdresden must have felt like after last year's one!

    For now, do enjoy this gem which was piblished last week: http://www.acecs.cz/?f_idx=4
    If you click on the top poster, you will download the proceedings from last year's Zelenka Conference. Special mention for Johannes Augustsson and Jan Stockigt's immense article summarising the many updates to our understanding of Zelenka's life. It's been a long time coming. This year's conference will have the same treatment, I believe.

    All the best,

    Seb

    PS. Thanks for linking that article with Viktora's interview. He mentions the Clavibus Unitis publication there!
    Last edited by Xanaseb; 27-10-2016 at 09:27 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Quote Originally Posted by Msl View Post
    Very curious to know how it was.
    I only attended the concert on Saturday evening in Prague. It was my very first Zelenka concert and a wonderful experience, not only because of the music but because I got to meet most of the main Zelenka scholars as well as several members of this forum. On my return, I made some notes which I would like to share here:

    If you are thrown the keys to a powerful sports car and pointed to a hundred miles of empty road, what would you do? Such a question was asked of Frieder Bernius, one of the greatest early revivers of Zelenka’s sacred music, when he was brought in to guest-conduct Ensemble Inégal, a band which has on regular occasion shown that they are not afraid to go supersonic. With two of Zelenka’s most expressive, energetic and inventive works on the programme Bernius marked his 2016 “Zelenka reboot” in style and challenged a largely Zelenka-familiar audience (the concert concluded the 3rd Zelenka Festival) to a truly emotionally and physically demanding hour of music.

    As “overture” we started with a characteristically dramatic reading of the Miserere (ZWV 57) with its dark pulsing strings at the opening, driven incessantly by Inégal’s extremely dynamic bass section. Considering what was coming later in the evening, the chorus then got a welcome warmup with some early 17th century polyphony, transcribed by Zelenka from Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali. This nod to the past was followed by the starkly modern Gloria Patris in empfindsamer stil, brightly performed by Andrea Oberparleiter. After the inevitable return to the dark material of the Miserere’s start, we moved to the evening’s main work, the Missa Dei Filii (ZWV 20). The fairly cursory Kyrie is followed by a Christe for solo soprano that is somewhat similar to the Gloria Patris that we had just heard in the Miserere. This time the honours fell to Maria Bernius, who sung crisply, though perhaps filled the church slightly less than her colleague earlier. Then, with a repeat of the Kyrie, the engine was warm and the audience eagerly anticipating what would follow, namely the overdimensional Gloria, one of Zelenka’s most brilliant and original settings - quite something for a composer who mostly only composed brilliant and original music. With the opening movement of the Gloria Bernius and his forces took us on an exhilarating white-knuckle ride, surely obliterating the 9 minute “record” set by an already energetic performance by the Wroclaw baroque orchestra and Dresden Chamber Choir under Vaclav Luks, broadcast on radio earlier in the year (by comparison the two CD recordings of ZWV 20, including Bernius’s own and a live recording of the Freiburg Barockorchester with the Collegium Vocale Gent clock in at between 9:45 and 10:00). Indeed, the pace that was set at the start drew silent gasps from the audience and one almost instinctively reached out for something to hold on to. And then, thoughts turned to the chorus, for when one knows the work, one knows what is coming!! Indeed, the nervous grins exchanged between members of the chorus during the opening ritornello said it all: “he said he would take it a tad quicker on the night and he kept true to his word”. However, full credit goes to the singers of the Stuttgart Chamber Chorus – they started second but never sounded like they were just “keeping up” with Inégal – they were full partners in crime in a high octane getaway dash! At these speeds, the text becomes rather less prominent (Zelenka even messes with the order of the liturgical text in order to meet his aims and he also treats the Laudamus te section as a recurring refrain). Instead, the work is like a concerto for two orchestras, one instrumental, one vocal. Both compete for attention with an eclectic mix of leaping acclamations, dizzying syncopation, unison plainchant and, of course, those famous swooping scales. In this performance the latter could actually have been better described as rising and falling glissandi, though they rarely felt out of control despite the ample reverb of the Salvatorska church somewhat muddying the effect. The concentration and virtuosity of the choir cannot be understated – they particularly impressed with the antiphonal entries in the recapitulation of the Domine Deus during which the band tries its best to distract with a repeat of those snakey syncopations of the opening ritornello. And then all those false endings, a trademark of Zelenka, when it seems that first the chorus and then the orchestra try to delay the inevitable. I think we were all thankful for the oasis of calm that came in the form of the Qui Tollis, that wonderful soprano aria with a slinking chromatic accompaniment in which, just when you think it has run its course, up pops a bass, and then a few bars later, a tenor. They reinvent the aria as a duet and go on to really crank up the tension. The soloists and particularly tenor Tobias Mäthger put in a fine performance which reminded us of Zelenka’s apparent deep interest in the world of opera. That interest was further displayed in the almost rage-aria like Quoniam, which followed the troubling strains of the Qui sedes, with its many suspensions in the choral texture beautifully and mysteriously “hung” by the chorus over the restless accompaniment. The Quoniam was taken at top speed but was perfectly phrased by the violins and oboes to add some, almost comical, twists to the various repeated figures. The male alto, Adam Schilling did a fine job with the showy vocal lines. His voice did however seem sometimes a little overpowered by Inégal’s accompaniment.

    With the Cum Sancto Spiritu fugue, one of the most ingenious ever composed to that text, we were strapped in for a return to the turbo-charged tempo already encountered at the start of the Gloria. Full credit to the chorus who kept together throughout, though they carried off the those off-beat “oompah” Amens rather less confidently than is possible at a slower tempo. At the close, following that clever recapitulation of the Gloria theme and those glissandi-scales accompanied by a final wild blast of G major from Inégal, the lightning tour ended.
    Both Ensemble Inégal and the Stuttgart Chamber Choir gave their all in what was evidently a performance which demanded considerable mental and physical strength. Thanks go to Frieder Bernius (and of course Adam Viktora) for making this unique occasion possible. It was certainly the most energetic interpretation of 18th century music that I have experienced. I am sure many critics would argue it was at times way too fast. Certainly, one could not wallow in Zelenka’s intricate invention, because it flew past and if you blinked, you missed it. However, Bernius knew that his audience were probably mostly familiar with this work, even his own recording of it. So, he was not out to win new fans of Zelenka, but to play to (and with) those “already hooked”. The great thing with Zelenka is that his music is very robust to different interpretations - this one included. In all, this interpretation was both exhilarating and draining and if anyone ever makes a recording like that, I’ll be needing a faster car!
    Last edited by rnkt; 27-10-2016 at 08:19 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Thanks a lot for the link. I look forward reading it over the weekend.


    Quote Originally Posted by Xanaseb View Post
    Hey Msl - it was absolutely brilliant!! Sorry that nothing has been posted yet. I ask for your patience, I am bogged down in work and other duties
    There is a *lot* to mention and discuss. I understand now how djdresden must have felt like after last year's one!

    For now, do enjoy this gem which was piblished last week: http://www.acecs.cz/?f_idx=4
    If you click on the top poster, you will download the proceedings from last year's Zelenka Conference. Special mention for Johannes Augustsson and Jan Stockigt's immense article summarising the many updates to our understanding of Zelenka's life. It's been a long time coming. This year's conference will have the same treatment, I believe.

    All the best,

    Seb

    PS. Thanks for linking that article with Viktora's interview. He mentions the Clavibus Unitis publication there!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Thanks a lot for the very detailed and inspiring review. I played both works this afternoon and tried to imagine how the concert would have been. Obviously that is a surrogate experience compared to yours, but nevertheless it made my afternoon.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Dear all,

    So, it's been three weeks now since the Zelenka Festival & Conference 2016, Prague-Dresden. I'm sorry that it has taken me this long to write-up a report for the forum. Below I just cover the concerts. My Conference-report discussing the Zelenka research will follow shortly. The spirit of the week remains with me strongly: the events, atmosphere and conversations were very special, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone thinking about coming along in the future.
    There is a lot to mention and discuss. It became apparent to me that students and scholars of Zelenka's life are still chewing over the revelations of the 2015 Conference & Festival. It really left the door wide open. So, this year's gathering presented something of a consolidation, with some new ideas and exciting discoveries. It further affirmed that our Jan Dismas was indeed a "highly praised, perfect Virtuoso" (one freshly found document quite literally does this) - ie. a truly exceptional person, both within and outside of his music.

    Wednesday 19th October
    Concert at the "Rytířský sál" (Knight's hall) at the Palace of the Grand Prior of the Knights of Malta - Adam Viktora pointed out that this was where the opening scenes of 'Amadeus' were filmed! It is a sparkling, grand place.

    "From Zelenka's Secular Vocal Collection - Musica Aeterna (Slovakian Baroque ensemble led by Peter Zajíček), Gabriela Eibenová (S) & Lenka Cafourková (S).
    Program:
    Antonio Lotti 1667-1740
    Sinfonia from Allesandro Severo (1716 opera); "Bell labbro" aria from Teofano (1719 - performed at the Wedding celebrations of Maria Josepha & August III); "Quella desta" duet from Giove in Argo.

    Johann Adolf Hasse 1699-1783
    Sinfonia á 4 op.5 in G minor (allegro); "Lo sposo va á morte" aria from Cajo Farbricio (1731 opera)

    Geminiano Giacomelli 1694-1740
    "Mancare, Dio, mi sento" aria from Adriano in Siria (1733 opera)

    Nicola Porpora 1686-1768
    Sinfonia op.2 Gmaj (air); "Digli che son fedele" aria from Poro (1731 opera); "E puoi, crudel" duet from Annibale (1731 opera)

    It was a marvellous idea to have an operatic theme to the whole festival (1. Zelenka's collection & inspirations -> 2. Zelenka's Arias following this model - > 3. Zelenka's Operatic skill applied to sacred music in two late masterpieces). It came as a result of djdresden's (Jóhannes Ágústsson) research, showing Zelenka's secular vocal responsibilities in the early 1730s. In that period, he had amassed an important collection of operatic arias for regular chamber concerts. Every one of the arias were stunning works displaying a variety of emotions and of styles (all Italianate) and superbly performed by Gabriela Eibenová and Lenka Cafourková. Kudos to the concert arrangers for putting together such a complementary palette of arias, sinfonias and duets. Starting three days after Zelenka's baptismal date, it started the festival off with a great operatic bang.
    Giacomelli's aria was the gem of the night. Sung by Gabriela Eibenová, it was so entrancing that I couldn't take my eyes away. I felt as if I could listen to it for ever. It has a sustained minor key, full of diminished chords, combined with a divinely sorrowful melody which pushes all the right buttons. Lenka Cafourková shone during the rage-type arias. Her powerful (often, piercing) voice provided a counterbalance to Eibenová's warm-softer one. The duets, especially Lotti's, were most delightful. Peter Zajíček was a very entertaining and energetic violinist, and the other musicians were great too. The Sinfonias combined nicely with the vocal pieces. An amusing aside: a few of the musicians shared the surnames of 18thC Bohemian composers: Peter Zelenka - 2nd violin, Lucia Krommer - violoncello (thinking of Franz Krommer/František Kramář 1759-1831), Romana Uhlíková - violone (Augustin Uhlig 1703-1773, composer, organist&violinist at Dresden & Leipzig Royal Catholic Chapel).

    Thursday 20th October
    2nd Concert at the Rytířský sál.
    On this day, I also went to Lounoviče pod Blaníkem, which was a magical experience. What struck me most was the beauty of the landscape of the surrounding area. It was typical Czech Autumn-countryside, with rolling colourful forest-laden hills, interspersed with occasional villages with small, but picturesque baroque churches. Lounoviče is small and very quiet, but it has its attractions. Zelenka is greatly celebrated. His memorial is very nicely kept, and he also has a plaque dedicated to him and his father inside of the church. The 'Zamek' (Castle/Palace) complex is intriguing. Inside, they were in the middle of preparations for the „Podblanický hudební podzim“ festival, that's been held annually since 1984, dedicated to J.D.Zelenka. I also took a hike up Vélky Blaník - a walk that Zelenka himself must have done often in his youth. There was a 19thC drawing of a Roman Catholic community going up and celebrating Mass at the top of it. I was surprised to hear from Czechs in Prague how their nationhood is dearly connected to this mountain. Sadly, I couldn't see anything from the top, because the tower was closed for the season!

    "Jan Dismas Zelenka: Alcune Arie - Causate dalle diverse Opere, poste in Musica..."
    The 8 Italian Arias, Musica Florea with Marek Štryncl, Lenka Cafourková (S), Gabriela Eibenová (S), Kamila Mazalová (A), Roman Hoza (B).

    This concert convinced me about the high quality of these Arias, more so than the recent CD. The interpretation and performance of Štryncl and Musica Florea was spot on: sharp but also fluid and full-bodied. Perfectly executed and nuanced. The ritornelli didn't grate or dull my ear as they did on the recording, instead they felt natural and what's more, very enjoyable. I loved in particular how much energy and passion they put into their playing. The ground almost shook with Štryncl's cello & the violone descents and tremors (probably not the technical terms...). After having heard samples of Zelenka's secular vocal collection the previous night, I could hear how they might have influenced his writing. In each aria he sets different techniques, to suit each individual soloist for their graduation performance (as per Johannes' theory). Gabriela Eibenová said afterwards that in the previous day's concert she could relax and not worry too much - but with these Zelenka arias it was important for her to be on the ball, all the time. These arias were designed to dazzle their audience with the sheer skill of each soloist - that, they certainly did! I came out of it very proud of Zelenka.

    Saturday 22nd October
    Concert at St Salvator's Church, Salvatorska: Ensemble Inégal and Stuttgart Kammerchor with Frieder Bernius conducting, Adam Viktora on positive organ, Maria Bernius (S), Andrea Oberparleiter (A), Adam Schilling (A), Tobias Mäthge (T), Emanuel Fluck (B)

    Miserere ZWV57
    Missa Dei Filii ZWV 20

    This was a perfect crown to finish the festival. For me, the Miserere was the highlight. It was hands-down the best performance I have ever heard. The famous Adagio was at a perfect tempo, with a careful intensity that allowed all the emotion to come through. What added to this more than anything else was a wonderful acoustic. The choir voices blended together and reverberated around the tall church interior in a particular way that's hard to describe. The tone of their singing was primordial, otherworldly. As for the Missa, Rnkt has captured it very well in his description above. I would only add that I was completely taken unawares by the mind-boggling speed at which Bernius took the musicians in the Gloria. I really had to recover from it. Thinking back to it, it was an absolute miracle that the choir managed to keep up so well. Well done. Nevertheless, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it had been turned down a notch. It was a bold, risky choice, which did benefit the Cum Sancto fugue which became unrelenting, yet streamlined: the pičce de résistance. He balanced the rest of the Mass very well with this, and both Inégal & Kammerchor Stuttgart pulled out all the stops for it.
    Last edited by Xanaseb; 14-11-2016 at 12:29 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Zelenka Festival 2016 - Meet up

    Thank you very much for this write-up! I hope I'll be able to attend next year...

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