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Thread: Zwv 176 Italian arias

  1. #11
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    :O, Oh my! Do forgive me, Msl. It wasn't the clearest online-shopping page :/
    Well, time to order...

  2. #12
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    No problem. The two albums will be an excellent remedy against the January blues.

  3. #13
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    With the flurry of recent Zelenka releases the reviews are coming in. Most attention (perhaps surprisingly or maybe not!) is on the Italian Arias album (Hana Blažiková et al., Ensemble Tourbillon).

    English:
    Early Music Review

    Amazon (but very high quality review!)

    German:

    Bavarian Radio

    DKGDR (don't know German didn't read): With the title "The obstructed opera composer" this review is firstly full of praise for Zelenka - "he's been called the <<Czech Vivaldi>> because he was mostly rediscovered through his instrumental music, but <<Bohemian Bach>> would be a much fairer comparison due to his significant output of sacred vocal music, which cannot be praised enough" It then goes on to get a bit cynical and also factually incorrect about the fact that this was the only foray of Zelenka into the world of opera (clearly the reviewer had never heard of Il Diamante!). The reviewer seems to work on the premise that these arias were planned to demonstrate his abilities at writing for the stage but Zelenka made them too chamber music-like. The actual performance is highly rated and described as "soulful" and "exemplary"

    Kultur Radio.

    DKGDR: Historically very well researched and written review - tells the facts that we know and doesn't speculate about Zelenka's bitterness or "hopeless personality" as I think I read in another recent German text. However, the reviewer is pretty critical about the recording itself. Under the headline "Great voices, weak orchestra" the review is full of praise for Blažiková and her two colleagues who take over in the 3 arias for alto and bass. However, the size of the accompanying ensemble is strongly criticized: "In view of the ample resources of the Dresden court orchestra [for which Zelenka composed], the one-player-per part strings accompaniment [on this disc] is hard to comprehend. Zelenka's blazing arias come across as involuntarily chamber music-like and not precisely enough delivered at that. Even more irritating is the reverberation, which blurrs the transparency strived for."

    That last review picks up the same theme as Brian Clark in Early Music Review, namely that Zelenka would have expected these arias to be performed by a more powerful ensemble than the Ensemble Tourbillon. Both reviews seem to work on the premise that Zelenka only wrote for a huge orchestra and would not be someone to "think small". Of course the (arguably not well-chosen) album cover does lead one to expect a big sound.

    However, I personally feel that the recording is actually rather close to what Zelenka had in mind for these works. While I was a little surprised when I first clicked play, on repeated listens I find it is actually quite refreshing to hear Zelenka performed this way. Moreover it is notable that none of the arias call for the oboes, bassoons (and often flutes) that Zelenka almost exclusively included in his scoring for his middle and late career works. This fact hints that these are arias which can be performed with the minimum of resources. Actually, if a large string section were used and with the absence of other colours from Zelenka's palette (oboes etc.) I would worry that things would get quite muddy in these often rather complex settings. I know, that is partly the criticism being levelled at Zelenka as to why his "style" was (allegedly) interpreted as unsuitable for the opera house. But, if we consider that Zelenka was actually thinking of chamber works with his 8 arias then that criticism evaporates. Afterall, right from the 1723 Melodrama (I know, in Latin, but very dramatic and stuffed full of showstopping-arias) through the oratorios to Il Diamante, Zelenka proves he can write in the cutting edge operatic style (I cannot judge the "Italian language" criticism or poor choice of texts because I know s0d all about 18th century Italian!).

    I believe it could possibly be that the reason for Zelenka's lack of penetration into the field of opera lies elsewhere than the skills deficit which the scholars seem to be citing (despite there being no contemporary source to assess Zelenka's operatic potential). Maybe he was just too busy; maybe he felt "chosen" to focus his energy on sacred music; or maybe he just disliked the whole "opera thing". We could speculate all day. Bottom line (my opinion): Zelenka could have written a full blown opera of the highest calibre but never did, for whatever reason. Come to think of it, wasn't there another composer lurking around in that part of the world at that time whose vocal music was almost exclusively for the church, but given time and motivation could probably have probably written absolutely legendary operatic music.... can't quite think of his name right now :-)

    - RNKT
    Last edited by rnkt; 09-03-2016 at 08:59 PM.

  4. #14
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    Hallo everyone,

    this is Petr Wagner calling!

    My reasons for doing ZVW 176 in one-per-part seating were pretty straightforward:

    1) as Bernhardt Blattmann writes in his booklet notes "...in a court church catalogue of works compiled in 1775, the collection [of the Italian Arias ZWV 176] is in fact listed as “Arie da camera”.
    2) there are separate instrumental parts surviving for these arias (kept in Dresden archive, too) and there is no single sign that there were more copies that would at least suggest larger - orchestral seating. No wind parts in the score, either.
    3) I think - and this is just my speculation - Zelenka might have actually arranged these pieces fairly quickly from a rather thin voice-and-continuo/harpsichord versions he had either composed in course of his later career or in course of just a couple of weeks. Who knows, really... However, 2 violins, viola and basso continuo seem to be the most logical last-minute and fast solution of arrangement of that kind of material.
    4) I just love the light sound of small chamber group with voice in this music. The texture is transparent, not foggy as it happens with larger orchestral bodies, and it blends more naturally with the soloists' voices extremely well, without pushing them to dynamic extremes.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy ZVW 176 as much as I do!

    Greetings from Prague,

    Petr Wagner

  5. #15
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    It is beautiful. I am listening to it almost every day. Thank you so much.

  6. #16
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    Thanks for this, and the album, Petr! Well defended choice. I particularly enjoyed Tomáš Šelc's vigorous aria and the emotive first Alto aria; I've missed Markéta Cukrová's sumptuous voice .
    Sometimes the pieces sounded too repetitive and disjointed - but, there's some good new material to discover, as well as early versions of melodies and phrases I remember from later (and maybe earlier) works (Oratorios?). I think the small chamber set up sounded exquisite, and showcased the singers very nicely.

    This leads me onto a point that I wanted to raise which the booklet notes unfortunately miss out:

    In Johannes Agustsson's [djdresden, who I hope won't mind me bringing this up] article from 2013 "The secular vocal collection of Jan Dismas Zelenka – A reconstruction" (Studi Vivaldiani 13: 3-52), he makes an important proposition (p. 31): Were these 8 Arias perhaps composed as final graduation pieces for the vocal soloists, most of whom had arrived from Italy in Dresden in 1730, and who likely continued their training under Zelenka (p. 17)? Johannes suggests the 5 soprano arias could be one each for Venturini, Bindi, Cattaneo, Maria Rosa Negri & Anna Negri, the 2 Alto arias for Annibali and the Bass aria for the Bohemian, Ritzschel; a "fitting conclusion to their studies?". Due to the missing autograph manuscript, which would have had the original petition and dedication, there's no conclusive proof yet. But it really changes the way we view them. Petr's observation about the possible thin voice & continuo/harpsichord texture is also interesting to think about in this light. Speculation: Maybe Zelenka rehearsed these with his vocal students one-to-one?

    Thanks again Petr for a great addition to the palette of Zelenka-discography
    Last edited by Xanaseb; 11-03-2016 at 03:15 PM.

  7. #17
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    My earlier post was perhaps not explicit enough about the fact I find this a great recording and an important and long overdue illumination of another fascinating facet of Zelenka's life and musical output. Thanks so much to Petr, the soloists, ensemble and production team who made this such an enjoyable disc! And thanks for elaborating on your motivation for performing it this way. I think it was exactly the right approach.

    My personal favourite is Aria no. 3 (E voi siete d'altri). With its 10 minutes of burbling bliss and occasional shady harmonic changes I was convinced it was about some kind of idyllic stream. But then I checked the booklet and found out that it is mainly about lips and bees. Hey, Zelenka, what's that all about? Looking at the score this also has to be close to a record for Zelenka for the most pedantic dynamic markings (and that is saying something because he was clearly very very picky about dynamics). Indeed, he seems to have everything from pp to ff. On one long note with a fermata sign above (bottom of p37) he even asks for the singer to go forte - piano - forte while the accompanying instruments go piano - forte - piano. Talk about micromanagement! But I suppose such pedantic dynamic markings might add support to the theory that these works were to be performed by Zelenka's vocal students...
    Last edited by rnkt; 14-03-2016 at 10:15 AM.

  8. #18
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    A review from Musicweb International:

    http://www.musicweb-international.co...s_ACC24306.htm

    That site is generally competent, but I'm wondering about referring to Zelenka as a 'gamba player' and cringed at 'His music is finally commanding the recognition it deserves, mainly due to companies such as Carus, Supraphon and Passacaille'. How on Earth are the Nibiru recordings so invisible?

  9. #19
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    Quote Originally Posted by rnkt View Post
    Looking at the score this also has to be close to a record for Zelenka for the most pedantic dynamic markings (and that is saying something because he was clearly very very picky about dynamics). Indeed, he seems to have everything from pp to ff. On one long note with a fermata sign above (bottom of p37) he even asks for the singer to go forte - piano - forte while the accompanying instruments go piano - forte - piano. Talk about micromanagement! But I suppose such pedantic dynamic markings might add support to the theory that these works were to be performed by Zelenka's vocal students...
    I still haven't yet got this recording but it sounds interesting. Honestly, Zelenka seems to me the most detailed composer of the time its almost shocking. Il Diamante in particular is covered in detailed dynamics where players have to shift from ppp to ff through mp and mf quite rapidly sometimes. When I typeset bits of Il Diamante for modern performance the detail is quite overwhelming. The players in particular were surprised. One aria in particular the violins have a number of dynamics, a variety of articulation markings, along with ornaments, triple stops and quadruple stops all in the first ritornello. Zelenka would not have been able to write like this outside of Dresden, I'm sure!

  10. #20
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    Default Re: Zwv 176 Italian arias

    I am finally in possession of the CD (I swapped it with Germund-Atle for the ZWV 6 -- thanks!); I've listened to it a few times. I don't mind the size of the ensemble at all (just as Mr Wagner wrote, 'da camera'...) and the soloists are of course superb. However, I have to notice how much better Zelenka got at this later, when writing arias for 'I Penitenti'... I'm not an expert, but it would seem to me that in the later arias the text flows without any problems, and contrasts are more pronounced.

    The melodies are also more straightforward later, I think; however, of course, we might not see that as an advantage :-)

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