View Full Version : Zelenka and Bach transcriptions - Magnificat in D

15-11-2009, 03:02 PM
Hello all...

Thoroughly enjoying the forum thus far...

For a paper I am working on, I was trying to chase down the score for Zelenka's Magnificat in D; ZWV 108 and have not yet acquired it through Interlibrary Loan. I have read the commentary in various locations (now discounted) that W.F. Bach was instructed by his father to copy one sequence for "use by the St Thomas choir" (attributed to Philipp Spitta, Stockigt 270). At the time I had the thought that perhaps the elder Bach might incorporate parts into his Magnificat in D (BWV 243).

The Bach work was written in E-flat to celebrate Christmas in 1723, but was rearranged with alterations/insertions and a key change to D in 1730. As the Zelenka piece was composed in 1725 and the connection had been raised in the past, I was interested in doing a comparison of the two pieces to look for possible Zelenka influence.

The thread on Zelenka and Bach seems a little light on the question of musical cross-pollination (although it does correct the 40-year-old mis-attribution of the copied material).

Any recommendations on musicologists who have pursued this line of thought?


Andrew Hinds
15-11-2009, 09:51 PM

I cannot offer the help that you seek but you may interested to hear the wonderful performance of the Magnificat in Eb (BWV243a) on DHM 05472 7734 2 that I drew attention to in my 31-05-2009 forum entry. A Lotti Mass orchestrated by Zelenka is on the same CD.

BWV243a probably pre-dates Bach's close involvement with Zelenka and was prepared for Christmas 1723. It has 16 numbers on it compared to 12 numbers on BWV243 - the version in D.

John Butt's book "Bach Mass in B Minor" (ISBN 0 521 38716 7) first published in 1991 has three or four references to Zelenka's probable influences on Bach's works in Latin but these seem to involve his Masses from 1728, 1736 and 1739.

Andrew Hinds

Andrew Hinds
17-11-2009, 03:14 PM
My second go at this!

I looked on www.musicroom.com and found that the music that you are seeking is available from them. Magnificat in D Major -ZWV 108 - is published by United Music Publishers and does not seem to be particularly expensive.

Andrew Hinds

18-11-2009, 02:46 PM
Thanks Andrew (& Arnaud)...

I have been in contact with Dr. Stockigt and she has been very helpful... I wish I could say that this is significant research (it's for a 7-10 page paper for my History & Lit of Western Music course), but it appears that I have embarked on a path that may lead to more interesting (and in-depth) research to come!

Will update when I get a little further on...

Andrew (2)

21-11-2009, 06:23 PM
Found in Understanding Bach, 3, 80-82 © Bach Network UK 2008
New Perspectives on the Canons of Johann Sebastian Bach, ELISE CREAN
"Another example of Bach’s innate skill in developing the compositional ideas of his
predecessors and contemporaries to new levels of erudition and complexity is the series of
interval canons in the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). Yo Tomita has convincingly suggested
that a manuscript belonging to Jan Dismas Zelenka, which contains a set of eleven interval
canons by Johann Joseph Fux followed by nine of Zelenka’s own, may have provided the
model for Bach’s work. Yo Tomita, ‘Bach and Dresden: A New Hypothesis on the Origin of
the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988)’, in Music and Theology: Essays in Honor of Robin A. Leaver,
ed. Daniel Zager (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2007) pp. 169–92. Bach not only
constructs a series that uses an organisational principle similar to that of their ‘fairly
straightforward compositional exercises’ (Tomita, p. 177) but also generates a structural
framework for the composition through the placement of an interval canon on every third

I listened again the Lutheran masses by Bach (by Herreweghe), maybe there is something in the Gloria of BWV234, the Cum sancto spiritu of BWV236...

Reading about Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (whose melodic line of the Fk 65 adagio was copied by W.A.Mozart and appear in his Requiem's Recordare), I found a citation of Zelenka in the booklet of CD Harmonia mundi 901772 :
"W.F. Bach's professional career began in 1733 [to 1746] as organist of the Sophienkirche in Dresden, a badly paid post that was once disparagingly described by the violonist Johann Georg Pisendel as a place of penitence, but which did leave the composer time for a variety of activities of his own - such as appearances at musical soirées at the electoral court or in the houses of music-loving aristocrats. Amongst the works he wrote in Dresden is the Sinfonia in F major (Fk 67), whose capricious fast movements owe a debt to the instrumental style of Jan Dismas Zelenka, whilst the Andante recalls types of aria in the Dresden operas of Johann Adolph Hasse".

Johann SK

22-11-2009, 03:08 PM
Wow... what great material. I am finishing up my paper in the next couple of days, but this is a wonderful find...

Andrew (2)

25-11-2013, 12:11 PM
The point of view of J.E. Gardiner in "Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven":

So far it has not proved possible to unravel the chain of influences in the Zelenka/Bach relationship, but it looks very much as though it were two-way traffic: Zelenka impressing Bach with his performances of large-scale Neapolitan Masses by Sarro and Mancini and of his own works in a similar style; Bach returning the compliment in the way he styled his own Missa along Dresden lines; Zelenka then reciprocating with his own tribute, the Missa Sanctissima Trinitatis of 1736, which manifestly owed a great deal to Bach’s Kyrie l.

"We saw that Bach’s Symbolum might have owed something to Zelenka’s Masses. This is as nothing compared to the close dependence of Hasse on Bach – particularly in the opening of the Credo and in the Et incarnatus of his Mass in D."...

"But there were other models by more recent composers, his immediate predecessors - Caldara, Durante, Lotti, Kerll and at least two by Zelenka*"

"* It could have been Zelenka’s Missa votiva of 1739, with its chant-like melody given out in longnotes within his polyphonic setting of the opening Credo, which encouraged Bach to use plainchant so prominently in his setting. It could also have been Zelenka’s Missa Circumcisionis of 1728 which gave Bach the idea of how to approach the Et in unum, as well as the chromatic bridge-passage at the end of the Confiteor, when the instruments drop out at mention of mortuorum (‘the dead’). But, as we saw, it looks very much as though Zelenka had learnt from Bach’s example (Kyrie I) when he came to determine the chromatic and rhythmic outline of his Kyrie II in the Missa Sanctissima Trinitatis of 1736."