View Full Version : Early Music Radio BB6 - "Composer Profile: Zelenka" Sun 14 April

13-04-2018, 07:38 PM
It's about time that the Early Music show put the spotlight on our man! There will be an hour long show this Sunday, 15 April, at 2PM, GMT.

Title description:

Lucie Skeaping profiles the life, times and music of the 18th-century Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, who won the admiration of many distinguished contemporaries, among them Johann Sebastian Bach. One of the most neglected figures of the late baroque, Zelenka composed some of the most sumptuous and glorious church music ever written.


16-04-2018, 05:51 PM
I would recommend anyone familiar with the current status of research into JDZ, his life and his works to have a stiff drink before listening to this programme.

16-04-2018, 09:13 PM
bottoms up:D

16-04-2018, 10:02 PM
...and I had such high hopes when she said 'well, we're putting Zelenka into rehab today' ... :( well what was the 2nd half of the show about then, eh?

sigh... *drinks*

Somehow, though, the most inexcusable thing though was the deliberate choice of the awfully slow Camerata Bern recording just after delivering a sob-story... It was an otherwise good selection of music (well, the Miserere Frescobaldi parody piece was questionable because it was passed off as Zelenka's own composition...)

16-04-2018, 11:03 PM
This is really miserable stuff from the BBC. I really sat up when she said "when I started to read about him, the same three words kept coming up: neglected, melancholic and isolated. Well, we're putting Zelenka into rehab today...". I thought, finally they are going to start putting the facts straight and dispel what are basically unfounded rumours that have become normalized over the years without any contemporary evidence (the petitions are not enough because many court members were writing them when the "regime" changed).

How wrong I was. Actually this drivel was not only hard on Zelenka but also very unfair on Heinichen and Hasse who happen to be pretty brilliant and unfairly neglected composers themselves. The "old and ailing Heinichen" (ailing he was, but not old - He was ~4 years Zelenka's younger!). And: "when the elector died in 1733 the composition of his requiem was entrusted not to Zelenka but to the frequently absent Hasse" (this is blatantly wrong - the Requiem and Responsories for August the Strong are one of Zelenka's greatest works!)

It got worse: "Zelenka died .... more or less a broken man thanks to the continuing ignominy of his position at court and the deteriorating relationship between him and Hasse" (Proof or it didn't happen!)

And also annoying: "He worked in such obscurity after his retirement that he wrote his last and most magnificent works with no hope of hearing them performed". They did not even play any of these magnificent works. I guess because they would rather not back up the narrative that he was "neglected, melancholic and isolated".

And: "Indeed Telemann and Bach were among the very few who recognized his genius". Hmm, what about the Kittel poem, huh?

Nothing on Zelenka's large scale projects (Responsoria, Psalmi Vespertini, Oratoria). Nothing on the many grand masses he composed for regular performance in the Dresden court. Nothing on the Zelenka "Brandenburgs", i.e the trio sonatas (only a mention of "small scale chamber works like trio sonatas"). Nothing on his highly successful 1723 Prague performances or on his amassing of a huge library of sacred and secular music (the latter especially for the training of italian singers). Nothing on his training of several excellent composers including Bach's immediate successor. Nothing on Il Diamante (performed by Hasse). Nothing on his fame for fugal writing or examples of his finest fugues. The BBC missed a huge open goal here, just for the sake of a tear-jerking story.

Of course the music selected is nice (it's Zelenka afterall!). But it seems to have been selected to underline the bitter and melancholic character they wanted to portray. If I was to pick a Zelenka top 10 covering his whole career and abilities I would probably choose nearly none of these works. I hope that proves I know the real Zelenka infinitely better than these cowboys at the BBC.

17-04-2018, 12:50 AM
Fearing the worst, I immediately emailed BBC on Friday with a standard “template” text I sometimes send to institutions who post or publish incorrect information about Zelenka on their websites. This “template” lists some of the recently published articles, and argues that the earlier held opinions on the composer were largely the work of badly informed musicologists and myth-makers. And as is usually the case, I received no reply. So today I politely emailed Ms. Skeaping thanking her for playing Zelenka’s music, while also bringing to her attention that many of the statements she made about the composer in the programme were factually incorrect. Tonight I received this reply:

"My information is mostly sent direct to me by the BBC production team; I usually have just 24 hours or so to put the programme together and so I have to rely on what they give me which is often just a few notes, some excerpts from Grove and the booklets from the CDs featured."

To be fair to Ms. Skeaping, the false information is still very much out there. But this does not reflect well on the BBC producers and their shallow preparations for the programme. I suspect that Peter Wollny’s absolutely shocking booklet notes (this Bach scholar clearly gets great pleasure in squashing Zelenka like a bug) for Robert King’s Hyperion CD were partly used (“died a broken man”, etc.). But we have to continue to fight this. Today there’s lots of new information out there, backed by a wealth of archival sources, and we have to hope that one day the truth will prevail. And, I am sure that Ms. Skeaping will not repeat her earlier statements on Zelenka, as she readily admits:

"I am grateful for your comments and references to articles and, time permitting, next time Zelenca is featured I will certainly aim to represent him more correctly."

18-04-2018, 09:55 AM
This is appalling. Please can somebody give me the e-mail address of "Ms Sceaping".

18-04-2018, 06:08 PM
Alistair, be my guest:

Her spelling of Zelenka with a "c" confirms that at least she read the Virtuosen poem I sent!