Great news about another Zelenka premiere! Just after Ensemble Antiphona's world premiere of "Missa Sancti Spiritu" (Zwv 4) in France, Collegium 1704 announced a new milestone in the ongoing Zelenka rediscovery adventure: Luks & co. are going to perform the "Missa Divi Xaverii" (Zwv 12) for the first time in Europe in Prague's Rudolfinum Concert Hall, both on 15 and 16 December 2014: . Thank you, Collegium 1704! I wonder if the double booking for this concert program could reflect the rapidly growing interest in "new" Zelenka compositions...

Zelenka's Mass dedicated to S. Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies, is exceptional for several reasons, both musically and context-wise, and aria-wise it is probably the most accomplished of ALL his masses:
FIRSTLY, the veneration of this Jesuit saint was exceptionally strong in the Dresden Court, and apparently for Zelenka himself.
SEONDLY, Zwv 12 was the first Mass Zelenka composed after Heinichen's death in July 1729. He must have been quite optimistic regarding his chances to become the next Kapellmeister at this point.
THIRDLY, unlike common procedure in the 1720s, JDZ did NOT have to compose this work "in great haste". The kyrie is dated 3 September 1729 and the final Agnus Dei 26 November 1729.
FOURTHY, whether this can be seen in connection with the 3 points above or not, Zwv 12 is a work of abundance, confidence and joy from a musical point of view:The innovative choral writings show few signs of reworkings according to J. Stockigt, despite their complexity on many levels. It also seems to be the only occasion in which JDZ took time to add separate autograph parts for the trumphets.
FIFTLY, "Missa Divi Xaverii" is Zelenka's aria Mass par excellance, not only because he found space for six arias (4 solos & 2 duets) in c. 40 minutes total, but even more so because of the great care and variation shown in the combination of the voice(s) with the accompanying obbligato instruments (oboes, flutes, violins, viola and/or violoncello, + b.c.). Actually, if we consider the attention given by Zelenka to the relationship between voice and obbligato instruments in the arias/ duets here, it seems that Zwv 12 has NO equal among his other c. 20 masses, including the missa ultimae.
Particularly touching and even a bit strange is the "benedictus". Given that the well-known, popular visual and verbal imagery of S. Frans Xavier back then represented the saint, the apostle of the Indies, in the act of baptising exotic looking Indian "savages", isn't it tempting to interprete the aria's exotic sound as a musical variant of this mentality, i.e. as musical orientalism?

Last, but not least, we must REALLY hope Collegium 1704 has planned to immortalize their performance achievements in a lasting CD recording with the ensemble's usually high artistic standard. It would be very sad if not, but fortunately Collegium 1704 & Luks seem to be aware of the importance, and the situation. A double concert at the Rudolfinum...