View Full Version : Zelenka and J. C. F. Fischer

29-05-2006, 06:53 PM
Johan Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656-1746) was a contemporary of Zelenka, although Fischer was more than 20 years older. Both composers were Bohemian, and - like Zelenka - Fischer had strong professional ties with Prague. Fischer also had a wide knowledge of the musical styles of Italy, France and Central Europe and his keyboard music is said to have pre-empted J.S. Bach's set of pieces for 24 keys. One author called him "nostri aevi Componista absolutissumus" (Mauritius Vogt, Prague 1719).

After having listened to the Missa Inventionis Sanctae Crucis by Fischer (on Supraphon SU 3534-2 231), I can't help feeling that J. C. F. Fischer is a better candidate composer for ZWV 45 (Requiem in C minor) than J.D. Zelenka! Zelenka's own style(s) is (are) quite different. Fischer certainly had a religious connection in Prague (with the Order of the Knights of the Cross), and the work (ZWV 45) comes to us from a copy kept in Strahov Monastery, Prague, and dated some 18 years after he and Zelenka both died.

I suppose we can't rule out the possibility that there was more than one Zelenka, though.

Question: Do we have any formal evidence that Zelenka and Fischer ever met?

08-06-2006, 12:50 AM
This is an interesting suggestion. There is no information to my knowledge about the meeting of the two men. But 5 of Fischer's Vespers compositions are kept in Dresden partly in Zelenka's handwriting and arrangements. And he studied there in the 1670's, possibly even with Schutz. Fischer's mass and the other pieces on the cd are the works of a master in my opinion. If you have the opportunity check out his Musicalischer Parnassus keyoard suites, ca.1736, especially the Toccata of the Thalia suite. Now that's familiar! Also, on the Antes label there is a good cd with orchestral suites (french style), cembalo and organ works and another solid mass, Missa in contrapuncto for 4 voices and b.c.

Regarding the Requiem ZWV 45, I think this is Zelenka, though at first I had my doubts (I immediatly thought of Lotti). In the early 1720's Zelenka wrote in many different styles for each occasion (I think it was Fux who stressed the importance of this, but I could be wrong), f.e. ZWV 53, 55, 175, 181 to name a few, so a solemn Requiem fits this pattern. And it has the emotional power of some of Zelenka's other works. However a new recording would be welcome for a different perspective.

In this context I have to recommend Wolfram Hader's book on the Requiem settings in the Dresden Court Church 1720-1764. He thinks that the parts in Prague come from a Dresden score, secondly that on the manuscript in Berlin the title page gives the author as Giov: Dism: Zelenka, which is the shortening he used in most of his autographs. So the copy could be from a lost original. But many still differ on this matter.

The book is full of juicy information. I'll give more details later.

Wolfram Hader: Requiem-Vertonungen in der Dresdner Hofkirchenmusik von 1720-1764.
Verlegt bei Hans Schneider - Tutzing, 2001.

13-06-2006, 09:46 AM
Thanks, djdresden, for some very useful information.

As I understand it, it is not just the style(s) of music in ZWV 45 that may point to it being a composition by someone else. Zelenka never entered it in his inventory. If, as you imply, he had written it at a period of his life when he was experimenting with different styles, the work should have been documented by him in his own hand.

If it had been written late in life - perhaps too late for him to be bothered or well enough to continue documentation - it would probably have borne some degree of likeness to the music of ZWV 18-21 (the final masses) or ZWV 151-152 (Litaniae Lauretanae), when he was "doing his own thing", but it is markedly different.

I have no knowledge of Lotti's music, so I cannot comment on him as a potential composer of this work. I am also prepared to believe that Zelenka's pen may have been responsible for the Introitus and Kyrie of ZWV 45. "Osanna" of the Sanctus, Benedictus, Osanna, Agnus Dei all have hallmarks of the colourful and melodious J. C. F. Fischer we can hear through Missa Inventionis Sanctae Crucis, but it is perhaps the "Cum sanctis tuis" that bears most resemblance. I doubt very much if the "Dies Irae" section (Dies Irae to Lacrimosa) was written by the same composer, and probably not by Zelenka either judging by the simple textures. To me, it is not polyphonic enough to be Zelenka.

Don't get me wrong; I love the whole work and am haunted by it. My feeling that Zelenka did not write much of it does not detract from the pleasure I get from listening to it.

I hope that some musicologist (musical archaeologist?) may be able to help us.

14-06-2006, 10:05 AM
When you listen to Zelenka's works, early to late works, he have a very distict baseline. Especially the allegro moments. You dont find it in this work.

Even if he is experimenting in new styles, he can't write many movements before he give himself away.

When you listen to his two recorded requiems Zwv 46 and 48, you can hear they are typical Zelenka works, even if they are written some years apart.
You cant say this when you listen to Zwv 45.

The instrumentation is also interesting to look at, strings and 3 trombones. Where are the oboes ? Only the Zwv 55 Responsorias use this instrumentation, and the work is far more complex than the requiem.

Might this be a really early work by Zelenka ?
The only early work I have heard, is Zwv 58 Immisit Dominus pestilentiam, and 1 movement only. This is a simple piece by Zelenka.
But compared to Zwv 45 the style is quite different.

We know Zelenka copied lots of works. This might be one such copy. Therefore we perhaps find his typical autograph here.

17-06-2006, 12:06 AM
and not take from either the cantata or the oratorio". This is the core of what Fux said. Since all of my Fux literature is on loan (a performance of his Dafne e Laure his being planned!) I don't have the quote. A Requiem should have a solemn and serious character of its own (sorry, this is what I meant by saying different style for each occasion, not that he was experimenting). Could Zelenka have taken the advice literally by the book?

The instrumentation gives something away since the Dresden court didn't use trombones after 1725 so if this is his work, or an arrangement, it's an early one. For me it's the choral writing which is most convincing. The Kyrie, Lacrimosa, esp. the second half (from ca.2.40), the Sanctus, Benedictus and the all the Agnus Dei (f.e.from ca.4.35) all have some Zelenkism's. Earlier works like the Sepolcro Cantatas ZWV 59 (1712) and ZWV 60 (1716) sometimes have a fairly simple bassline and violin writing, in parts not unlike the Requiem, but the beauty of the choral fugues is already there.

Here are a few highlights from the literature:

Hader and others have suggested that this could be the Requiem ZWV 247 for his father, performed by the court musicians on the 3rd of March 1724, two days earlier than De Profundis ZWV 50 was performed, another work with three trombones (and oboes...). Hader also states that he has found a parody in the middle part of the Sequenz - and that this could come from an unknown Stabat Mater setting.

In the Zelenka Dokumentation 1, Reich speculates if this could be a pasticchio with music by Zelenka, and while the article acknowledges the stylistic difference to other works, the choral parts has many of the typical elements, taking Osanna and the Dona in the Agnus Dei as an example.

Riedel, in Zelenka Studien II, wonders if this is an early work from the Vienna years, where Zelenka would undoubtedly have studied the Requiem settings of the likes of Bertali, Schmelzer, Leopold I and Fux. He adds that stylistically it resembles Fux's majestic and famous c-moll "Kaiser" Requiem from 1720 (but probably originating in 1697). That beautiful work is more concertante but the trombones certainly give it a grave color. This could explain the absence of oboes. I have a few recordings of liturgical works from Vienna ca.1700, so I can see Riedel's point.

While no new manuscripts come along we have to trust our ears, check the sources and different opinions will form. This isn't the only Requiem that can be considered dubious, ZWV 48, of which no autograph exists, has it's doubters as well, including the much mentioned Hader. He tears it apart in his book. What about that!!

Back to ZVW 45, are there any other composers that come to mind when listening to this work?

Andrew Hinds
20-10-2006, 10:14 PM
I have just been playing through 2 fugues and Suite lll by Fischer (pages 9 to 11 from Deutsche Klaviermusik des 17 und 18 Jahrhundertz - Edition Chr Friedrich Vieweg - Berlin). He is a fine composer and worthy of study but there seems to me to be no point of comparison with the music of Zelenka.
I don't understand why anyone would have suggested such a thing.
Andrew Hinds

21-10-2006, 02:05 PM

I was the one who started this thread, but I am not sure you have followed my argument. I didn't suggest that Fischer wrote music like that of Zelenka. This whole thread is about ZWV 45, which is not typical of Zelenka.

Regards, Alistair

Andrew Hinds
23-11-2006, 11:21 PM
Apologies for missing the point! I have now listened to the Supraphon World Premiere Recording of the Fischer Mass and, impressive as tracks 4 (Kyrie) and 10 (Agnus Dei) are, for example, we are not listening to the composer of ZWV 45 in my opinion. The music has more the feel of Fux and that wonderful Ars Nova Fux CD with Rene Clemencic.
We do have to look at the two aspects of the Claves CD of the Requiem in C Minor. Tracks 1 - 6 and tracks 13 -18 are ZWV 45 with the Dies Irae (sine ZWV) on tracks 7 - 12. It is easier to unravel the situation with the 1996 Panton Classics version (CD71 0368 -2) where the two pieces are separate. It is the Claves CD that brings out the solemnity - the majestically slow pace is just right for this music.
For now, let us not diminish Zelenka! Remember the Psalms CD - one of the best examples of Zelenka's colossal range - where there are four different psalms and four different styles. [ I mean the CD with Psalm 150 in Czech at the beginning].
Andrew Hinds

08-12-2006, 04:12 PM
I'm not sure I was trying to diminish Zelenka; after all, he wrote about 240 other works. ZWV 45 will probably always be attributed to him, but one can at least speculate. I am haunted by ZWV 45, and I love Zelenka's music in general, but I am not at all convinced that his style was as broad as this.

Andrew Hinds
12-01-2007, 10:48 PM
ZWV 45 cannot have been by Lotti - I have spent an hour listening to his style of writing. I have also eliminated to my satisfaction the following:-
Leo (1694 - 1744); Caldara (1670 - 1736); Perti ( 1661 -1756); Durante (1684 - 1755); Zach (1699 - 1773). All these are Catholic composers and, in addition, I guess that no Protestant composer could possibly have written ZWV 45.
I have just received Carus's new releases - I am very interested in the exciting re-discovery of the huge output by Homilius (said by some to have been J.S.Bach's last pupil). A further opportunity to test Fischer's credentials comes with Carus (83.172) Musica Sacra. It includes his Missa Sancti Dominici.