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Thread: Tell us your favourite Zelenka tracks

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
    East Sussex UK

    Default Tell us your favourite Zelenka tracks

    Dear Everyone,

    I'd be interested to hear which are your favourite Zelenka tracks and why.

    My top favourite is the final track of I Penitente al Supulchro del Redentore (Panton 81 1389-2 231) - track 11 lasting 6:13 minutes. The sincerity of our great man, Zelenka, shines through in this wonderful music and, by reflection it is possible to believe what he believed. At times this track has brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

    I have other tracks to add later involving other moods (many less serious than this one). I hope that this gives you the idea and may set the ball rolling!

    Andrew Hinds

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008


    Right now for me it's the Missa Purificationis, since I've recently purchased it. Otherwise I'd have to say the trio sonatas.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Southern Sweden

    Default Favourite Zelenka

    Thanks for this great initiative, Andrew. I thought that everyone would have jumped in here head first, but it perhaps reflects the fact that by the time you're "hooked" enough on Zelenka's music to become a forum member, you know that there is just so much to choose from.... so the ultimate choice is very difficult!

    I love just about everything that Zelenka wrote. Never having been an opera fanatic (as Vladimir Ashkenazy once said: "it's all so very 100% theatrical"), it surprises me that I have come to prefer his vocal music to his instrumental stuff.

    My ultimate Zelenka piece is the Kyrie eleison from Litaniae Lauretanae "Salus Infirmorum" (ZWV 152). Ever since I first heard it, I have found it very moving. It takes me forward to the fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945, 200 years after Zelenka's death, when "have mercy on us" had true meaning. If what Kohlhase wrote of Zelenka in the 1990s about Zelenka's final works having "visionary power" has any truth, you may find it in this piece.
    Last edited by Alistair; 18-12-2008 at 09:20 AM.

  4. #4


    The movement I have been listening to most times, is the Credo from Missa Omnium Sancturum Zwv 21. Very intense, virtous and well written. The long coda is just wonderful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    For me it is the Aria - Da vivo tronco aperto from I Penitenti sung by Magdaléna Kožená. Always sends shivers down my spine. And the very next to follow would be Christe eleison Missa sanctissimae trinitatis also sung by Magdalena.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    Choosing just a single track makes this a tough call.
    My pick is Et resurrexit from Missa Dei Patris, tracks 13-14 on both recordings.
    (and no it's not cheating because both tracks are performed without pause, and use some of the same material, so seem to be designed as a single piece.)

    First up is a fairly long, very fast and vibrant orchestral ritornello with a couple trade mark Zelenka quirks near the end. Defying all expectation this is combined with the chorus singing "et resurrexit tertia die" in longer more sustained notes, in at least 2 independent parts.
    This is followed by a contrasting section with soloists and chorus singing "vivos et mortuos" to a plain slow accompaniment.
    Even more amazing, Zelenka manages to make the bustling ritornello fit with the same Gregorian chant(intoned in unison by the choir) that Bach used in the same place for "confiteor unum baptisma".
    Then right in the middle, another contrast, this time the voices singing a single word "mortuorum" almost in the old acapella style, with just a few notes from the continuo. Although probably not Zelenka's intention, it's easy to imagine this is a sly commentary on the stile antico .
    Now it gets really interesting. After just a few brief bars of the ritornello, the chorus begins a double fugue on stern, contrasting chant like themes to the words "et vitum venturi saeculi/amen", with the orchestra, almost for the first time, playing in unison with the voices. After half a dozen entries on both themes, the orchestra suddenly breaks into almost the whole ritornello, which the chorus ornaments with a very elaborate "amen" . Then the fugue and the ritornello alternate at shorter and shorter intervals, almost as if in a contest or a race, leading to an exhilarating close.(hard to decide which won)

    By themselves ritornellos, fugues, and chant seem to be no more than solid baroque base metal material, but Zelenka takes them together and by combining, contrasting and contesting, transmutes them, beyond the dreams of alchemy, into pure platinum.

    Why do so few people seem to appreciate this miraculous music?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    Default Missa Circumcisionis, Track 1

    Dear friends,

    On this day, I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    When I have to choose my favorite track just now, so it´s Track 1 of Missa Circumcisionis D.N.J.C. [1728, ZWV 11, in the key of D], Konrad Wagner recording. It was composed "for the feast of Circumcision on New Year´s Day", yet it comes very close to the festive atmosphere of Christmas which I experienced during my childhood in Moravia. The feast itself later disappeared from the Catholic lithurgy as far as I know.

    Here I feel a similar inspiration by the Czech Christmas music and carrols as with Jan Jakub Ryba´s "Česká mše vánoční", which is a seldom jewel.

    I even prefer some of Zelenka´s earlier compositions to his "Missae Ultimae", although the latter are, without any doubt, masterpieces of unique quality. In his Missa Circumcisionis D.N.J.C. for example, the music is vigorous and I would say joyous. Maybe the presence of trumpets is one of the decisive factors.

    However, I support all suggestions up to now from other Forum members. Beyond I Penitenti there are some other superb recordings with Magdalena Kožená (a native of Brno - Brünn). I think her alto (mezzosoprano) is a perfect voice for Zelenka´s arias.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Coquitlam, B.C. Canada


    Great question Andrew which I have pondered at length. It would be very easy to give scores of sublime Zelenka moments, but choosing just one is very tough. I would have to vote for a 34 second passage from track 15 from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the Helios version with Michael George singing.
    The passage runs from 2.23 until 2.57 with the voice singing a simple hauntingly beautiful but desolate melody accompanied by the violone. The melody is then echoed by the violone and organ. For me, that mere 34 second span of time packs in a great deal of sadness, longing and empathy, expressed very simply but with a wealth of knowledge and understanding that I find breathtaking.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Lewes, UK


    The variety of responses to Andrew's challenge, plus the depth of feelings aroused in each correspondent, simply go to show why we are all so hooked on his music!!
    And I can confirm that I had great difficulty in whittling down to a long list in my overall survey!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default First Exposure/A Favorite Recording

    It's very hard for me to pick one or two "favorites", but certainly my first recorded exposure to Zelenka's music remains one of my most listened to recordings.

    In fact, I would venture to say it was this recording which may have started the whole Zelenka "revival" going in the 1960s.

    The recording was titled "Music from the Saxon Court", but contained only orchestral music of Zelenka, including the ZWV 189 Concerto a 8 concertanti in a minor and the ZWV 188 Ouverture a 7 concertanti in F major, inter alia.

    This was a Decca Gold Label LP with the Clarion Concerts Orchestra, directed by Newell Jenkins. I picked it up on a whim, I will say about 1967 or 1968. I was immediately impressed and will say that this performance of these orchestral works is still my favorite even after listening to many/most of the subsequent recordings. This was, fairly obviously for the time, not an "authentic/original" instruments recording but the performance is absolutely spot on.

    Oddly enough, I still own 2 copies of the LP (the first one is pretty worn out, the second was an early eBay "prize") and my goal is to find somewhere where I can get it digitalized as the last time I bought a stylus for my turntable I had to send away for it and it cost a small fortune. Please let me know if there may be any interest in hearing this recording as it might prompt me to go find someone to make the transfer.


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