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Thread: First in (hopefully) a series of Zelenka keyboard transcriptions

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    Default Re: First in (hopefully) a series of Zelenka keyboard transcriptions

    Thank you very much rnkt for your work! I'll try to play this though I'm a complete amateur. And also thanks djdresden for the scans, I had no idea these transcriptions existed... they seem really done with a grand piano in mind.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Germany, near Pisendel's place

    Default Re: First in (hopefully) a series of Zelenka keyboard transcriptions

    Dear All,

    Thanks for your appreciative words and thanks especially djdresden for sharing the earliest known piano transcriptions. I also thought the little bio of Zelenka in German was great and showed that 100 years ago none of this "old misery guts Zelenka" stuff was going on - I like how it stresses that yeah, he did not get the job he hoped for, but still the Queen valued him greatly. Anyway, I bashed through them and they are quite fun to play and sound good. But of course these are not transcriptions of Zelenka's finest works. My personal objective in my transcriptions is to showcase his idiosyncratic style and so I am prioritising the transcription of works, which, when I was getting to know Zelenka over the past years, had moments when I thought, did he really write that? I think if such works become more accessible to amateurs who can tinkle away at them at home then I think the awareness of the uniqueness and significance of our composer will surely increase. I personally see extremely strong influences of Zelenka on CPE Bach and both Haydns, perhaps more so than that of JS Bach, Handel etc. I am hoping the keyboard transcriptions will help promote that thinking further!

    My first transcription was of the Quoniam from Missa Sancti Josephi, not because it is my absolute favourite Zelenka work but because it is kind of dance-like (though in a kind of satirical way, almost as if he was poking fun at his Leipzig colleague whose entire output can be summarized as dance music and chorales ) and quirky in terms of sudden dynamic changes and so probably well suited to the keyboard.

    My second transcription has been the amen fugue from In exitu Israel (ZWV 83), mainly because I heard it for the first time a few months ago and haven't been able to expunge it from my head since. It is one of the only 18th century works which comes very close to atonality and is much less tacky than the rather overhyped ouverture by Rebel. I managed to get a copy of the score (manuscript not yet scanned at SLUB) and was quite pleased to see how easily and well the music transcribed. There were three problematic bars which simply did not sound good in the direct transcription so I had to change them a little bit (see if you can spot them - hint - one of them includes a jazz chord which Zelenka did not use, but one could easily imagine him doing so )

    One of my current projects is a transcription of the Quoniam from Missa Dei Patris - anyone who disagrees that Zelenka was at all influenced by folk tradition better hear this. In the original version it sounds funky, in the piano version, it is basically like Haydn or early Beethoven. But I still have some way to go with that. I am also doing the double fugue (Cum sancto) from ZWV 30 because it is one of the most grand, climatic works he wrote, especially if you hear the raw, but full-blooded performance posted by the Russian conservatory posted on youtube (it is also begging for a professional recording - please, someone do this!!).

    I see from your responses that you would like to hear how these transcriptions sound. I am not a strong pianist (any more) due to lack of time for playing. I also don't have good recording equipment. However, I will try to post recordings. To get us started, I recorded the ZWV83 transcription this evening. You can download it here: It is not a great performance and the sound quality is rubbish but I hope you get the idea, especially of the other-worldly opening section. The work stands up well against the best keyboard fugues of Bach and shows Zelenka's mastery in engineering great climaxes and releases in his contrapuntal writing, techniques he employed to wonderful effect in the immense fugues from his late works.

    Last edited by rnkt; 19-11-2015 at 12:37 AM.

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