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Thread: Zelenka/Bach

  1. #1

    Default Zelenka/Bach

    Does anyone have an exact reference to the correspondence between J.S. Bach and Zelenka, or to the passage where Bach's admiration for Zelenka is spoken of (by one of Bach's sons, I believe)? I have heard of Bach's admiration for JDZ but would like to read the original source.

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    Default Bach and Zelenka

    In 1755, CPE Bach was asked by Forkel who was writing a biography of JS Bach to name those composers who were known to his father. His reply indicates that JS Bach esteemed highly Fux, Caldara, Handel, Kayser, Hasse, both Grauns, Telemann, Zelenka, Benda, and in general everything that was worthy of esteem in Berlin and Dresden. Except for Fux, Caldera, Handel and Kayser, he knew the rest personally. Two Mass settings were in CPE Bach's library. They date from 1728 and presumably were inherited from his father's collection.
    I hope that this is of some help.
    Andrew Hinds

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    I recall reading (I think in Janice Stockigt's wonderful book) about Bach and Zelenka corresponding about the styles of Mass at the Dresden Court. Apparently Bach needed a little help to "fine tune" his style to the tastes of the Augustan Court.

    I have a of speculation; I have sometimes wondered if one or some of Bach's Cello Suites weren't in part intended for Zelenka or were tried out by him? Must just be a crazy romantic idea, but one wonders.

    Gene

  4. #4

    Default Zelenka/Bach

    One would have hoped that JS Bach wrote his cello suites for Zelenka, but I think not. The timing doesn't fit. They were probably written some time between 1717 and 1723, which was quite "early" in Zelenka's career in Dresden. It is questionable whether Bach and Zelenka would even have met at that time. Their main interaction probably started a few years later when Bach had more reason to come to Dresden on a regular basis.
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    Last edited by paperMoon; 27-01-2011 at 04:11 PM.

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    Dear PaperMoon,

    It’s a thrilling idea (Zelenka playing Bachs cello sonatas!), but you’re right: the date of composition makes it rather unlikely. And we don’t even know if Zelenka could play the cello – in Dresden he’s only mentioned as a double bass player…

    A link between Bach and Zelenka that until now has remained somewhat unexplored is Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Bach’s oldest and favourite son, also called the Dresdner Bach. Friedemann worked from August 1733 until 1745 as a organist at the Dresden Sophienkirche and he knew Dresden court musicians as J.G. Pisendel and S.L. Weiss very well. Presumably he took an active part in the musical life of the court. He almost certainly must have known Zelenka.

    Friedemann was the reason why J.S. Bach was in Dresden in July-August 1733. He then presented the Dresdner Elector the Kyrie and Gloria from his Hohe Messe and eventually received the title of Kirchen-Compositeur, just as Zelenka.

    Friedemann certainly is a very interesting ‘trait d’union’ between the old Bach and Zelenka. It’s clear that Friedemann held Zelenka’s music in great respect. The similarities between Friedemanns sinfonias and some of his harpsichord concertos and Zelenka’s orchestral works can’t be overheard. Grove e.g. simply states that Friedemann’s ensemble music “is obviously modelled on J.D. Zelenka”. Capricious, somewhat melancholic, complex and contrapuntal: I know no other composer that has so much in common with Zelenka. It’s tempting to think of the old Bach, the younger Bach and Zelenka, sitting in a little Dresden house around a table talking about their compositions…

    Best wishes,
    Peter

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    I recall reading, in a note liner, that Bach directed his son Wilhelm Freidemann to copy out the "Amen Chorus" from a work of Zelenka's.

    Thanks for the insights on the timelines and connections in Dresden.

    It's an even more intriguing thought, at least to me, to imagine the two Bachs and Zelenka playing as a trio ensemble, improvising together. I'd pay a pretty penny to listen to that performance.

    Gene

  7. #7

    Default Zelenka/Bach

    I think the work you are referring to is Zelenka's third Magnificat (ZWV 108).
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    Last edited by paperMoon; 27-01-2011 at 04:11 PM.

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    Default Zelenka/Bach

    It is fascinating to speculate about the intricate connections between various Dresden musicians at the time when Zelenka was active there but we need to be careful not to spread incorrect information.
    GeneW's suggestion about JS Bach instructing Friedmann to copy something for him may be correct but it seems to have been discovered that the copyist of the Magnificat (ZWV 108) known to have been played in Leipzig (mentioned by Papermoon) was not Friedmann Bach as has been stated in various CD leaflets etc.
    When I visited Dresden for the first time last year, I was struck by the close proximity of the various churches in the centre of the city. Going to work each day, Zelenka and Friedmann Bach and Ristori and Pisendel and - towards the end of Zelenka's time the splendid, now little known, Homilius too (with his 200 Cantatas etc. Thank you Carus and keep going!) - must have met in the street from time to time. They must have known one another and some will have liked to have involvement/friendship with one another. As Bach's former pupil, Homilius would perhaps have met JS Bach when he was in Dresden. After all, CPE Bach and Homilius (both born in 1714) had communication in the 1750's/1760's and CPE Bach used some of Homilius's music when he was providing church music in Hamburg after he succeeded his godfather, Telemann, in 1767.
    There needs to be much more research to find out about these friendships etc. How do we set about it and how can we avoid dispensing incorrect information!?
    Andrew Hinds

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    I am glad that Andrew has pointed out the fact about the Magnificat and the error that was put out 40 years ago. I'd like to add to this that the jury is still out amongst the musicologists on who the copyist is - and the author of the book on Harrer, Zelenka's student, thinks that the provenance could still be Bach's library, though this is certainly not a copy by WFBach.

    The connections between the Dresden musicians are certainly of great interest and I can tell you about a project I've been working on for some time on my many visits to the archives. I have found the addresses of most of the court musicians and where they lived in 1738 and 1740, and my idea is not only to make a map, but also to study the inhabitants, f.e. those who lived in the same houses as Zelenka in Moritzstrasse and Kleine Bruder Gasse. I have some absolutely fantastic information already on this, connections, crossconnections etc., which I can't wait to get out at some point. Although little remains of old Dresden today, it is fun to fantasize, walk in the footsteps, and well, WFBach and Zelenka were neighbours after 1740! WFBach lived in Wilsdruffer Strasse.

    We know from the fascinating letters of Pisendel to Telemann that there was tension between the italian musicians and the rest. Through my research on Ristori I can surely say that the italians in Dresden were a tight knit group, as can also be seen in some of the documents covering the journeys of the court musicians to the nearby castles of Hubertusburg and Moritzburg for opera performances. Mennicke's book on Hasse and the Graun brothers states that there actually were two opposite italians "gangs" at the court, one of which was lead by Faustina, Hasse's wife.

    Finally, here is something that always makes me smile. From the Sautscheck website, even though it is fake history one must admire the imagination of those two stories below - see http://polyhymnion.org/swv/vita2.html :

    Forkel recounts the following anecdote from the life of Johann Joachim Sautscheck:

    "Lorenz [Mizler] once told me that Sautscheck made no secret [which earned him few friends] of his dislike of all sopranos.
    One evening he was dining in his usual fashion (that is, whenever he has in Dresden) at a certain coffeehouse with his bosom friends Weiss, Zelenka and Friedemann Bach, having a conversation exeedingly deep in matters philosophical which was accompanied by copious amounts of a certain Italian schnapps called Grappa di Brunello that Herr Sautscheck brought back from his journey to the Venetian territories. Meanwhile the neighbouring table was being occupied by none other than Hasse and Faustina accompanied by some fancy Frenchmen. Hasse, whose sugary music could not conceal his poisonous character, exacerbated by Sautscheck's opinion of Faustina, observed loudly that these grim "les artistes bent on minor keys" were not fit to live with pigs. To which Herr Sautscheck retorted that maybe they were not, but Herr Hasse surely was. All the diners present could not hold their laughter, which prompted the Hasse party to dine elsewhere..."

    This obvously put Silvius Leopold Weiss (trapped between his artistic sensibilities and his professional loyalties in a "ketman" type of situation) in a serious embarrassement.

    There is also an anonymous anecdote, that says that ":
    ".....exactly a week after Fux's affair an opera buffa was produced and
    staged in Prague, in an enclosed garden adjacent to an beer establishment "U Sauçeka".
    It was called appropriately "Carezza di Brutezza e Clemenza di Cozze, ossia Incertezza delle zizze della moglie di Besozzi".
    It started with an Ouverture by Her Weiss for 2 lutes in imitation of
    Heinichen with so many notes marching in place that it must have really resembled the inside inside of the Pandora's 'box'...... Then Herr Tuma sang to his own accompaniment a Conti styled aria "Nella foresta delle tiorbe...." with the words "la mia e' piu'lunga" in VERY long notes over a scurrying bass. Then Herrn Quantz, alternating with voice and flute, Gebel and Graun on lutes played and sang an aria containing no themes but lots of sequences of a martial nature alla Hasse to the unfortunate words"Dall'inganno del spompinarmi,.... il re vuole incularmi, all'armi, all'armi etc." with such a cunning imitation of Faustina that poor Zelenka dropped his bow, tore off his wig [though he was a man of Gravitas] and almost choked. Then he cried:
    "You are having fun, bastards, but 'tis I being "@$%^ed every day of my
    life in that wretched place..."
    Herr Sautscheck who contributed the libretto played a few licks on lute here and there, "in echo". Someone I dare not mention kept watch at the door as this might not have sat well with the Emperor, if that ever touched upon his ears, and that certainly would have resulted in exile to Upice for 10 years at the least...."...... The rest of the account fell prey to 1945 water damage, as it was mixed in with von Dittersdorff's scores. Contemporary beer damage also could have been responsible.

  10. #10

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    Hehe, very interesting read.

    After reading this, I can only be impressed by Zelenka's character. Not easy for him in early 1730 to change his musical style towards music he didnt like. And the persons composing it.
    But Zelenka managed to change his style of music without lessen the quality. Except for a few works perhaps. First movement of Zwv 164 Barbara dira effera is, well, less interersting music.

    Thank you for sharing this with us Djdresden.

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