Recording of parody of part of Missa Circumcisionis by CPE Bach

  • The wonderful research tool that is Spotify strikes again. Whilst attempting to listen to some harmless flute concertos by Emmanuel Bach Spotify decided I really should hear a newly released recording of two of his so-called "inauguration cantatas" (available here). Except I only realized this after looking in shock to see what was being played - a somewhat jazzed up and German version of the "Et Vitam Venturi" section of the Credo of Zelenka's Missa Circumcisionis (ZWV 11). This turned out to be the the opening chorus of the first cantata on the disc "Ich will dem Herrn lobsingen" (H.821b) which was written in 1771, over 40 years after ZWV 11. Of course it is well known that Emmanuel Bach had a copy of ZWV 11 in his collection. However, I find nothing written anywhere (forgive me Bach/Zelenka scholars if this is long trodden territory!) about Bach actually parodying Zelenka's music in his own work (it is known he did this with other composers, especially Benda and of course papa JS).

    Anyway, I thought I would post this because the disc is brand new (and very nice by the way) and is an interesting (and rare) opportunity to hear another composer's take on Zelenka. Bach's manuscript can also be seen online here. It seems that Zelenka's already quite energetic violin part was not snazzy enough for the tastes of the 1770s so Bach sends it into hyperdrive. He also ditches the horns and greatly expands the roles of Zelenka's 3 trumpets. The chorus and continuo seems to be pretty much identical to Zelenka, with the words and underlay changed to accommodate the German text of course.

    One wonders what might have happened had CPE Bach had his hands on ZWV 19-21...

  • Great stuff! This sounds quite convincing. And no, I can’t recall this being mentioned in the literature, the reason perhaps being that CPE Bach’s cantata only recently resurfaced in the Sing-Akademie collection among a large cache of his works.

    And: the young and brilliant Bach might indeed have known of Missa Dei Patris, ZWV 19, even if he did not own a score of the work. In his eye-opening “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach trifft Jan Dismas Zelenka” article in Zelenka-Studien 2, Hans-Günter Ottenberg discusses the similiarities of the Agnus Dei in Zelenka's setting and CPE Bach's Largo con sordini, mesto, the second movement in the Flute Concerto (H 438 /WQ 168), a work also known in two other versions as Harpsichord Concerto (H 437 / WQ 168) and Cello Concerto (H 439 / WQ 172). Examples are easy to find in YouTube, f.e.: (flute) (cello)

    Professor Ottenberg, one of the great Dresden musicologists of the older generation, provides musical examples and tables, noting: “Alle Grundparameter des Satzes stimmen mit den diesbezüglichen Angaben bei Zelenka weitgehend überein.” He then draws the following conclusion:

    “ Bleibt zum Schluß die zusammenfassende Feststellung, daß die Empfindsamkeit als “Komplex affektiv geladener Erwartungs- und Verhaltensdispositionen” sowie als Ausdruck eines neuen Selbstverständnisses des Komponisten in den vierziger Jahren des 18. Jahrhunderts, also in der Zeit von Zelenka’s Spätstil, zu einer dominanten Stilhaltung und richtung avancierte. Beide Musiker, Zelenka und C. Ph. E. Bach, bedienten sich gelegentlich der “empfindsamen” Idiomatik. Daß sie beide in den von uns analysierten Werken so ähnlich ausfällt, dürfte wohl doch eher Zufall sein; nicht zufällig ist der beiden Komponisten eigen verinnerliche Ton!”

    To this I might add, that perhaps it is kein zufall – no coincidence! I’ve recently uncovered archival evidence of a possible visit of CPE to Dresden in 1743. While there, he might well have heard, and been inspired by Zelenka’s Missa Dei Patris. Who would ever forget the overwhelming melody of the Agnus Dei?

  • Well this is eye-opening indeed :eek:

    Great spot RNKT!! That could have been so easy to pass by without notice. But, it's totally unmistakeable.
    Here's the SLUB page from Zelenka's autograph where the Et Vitam section starts: https://digital.slub-dresden.d…orkview/dlf/113399/102/0/
    And here is a rough-sounding recording of ZWV11 on youtube, linking to the start of the Et Vitam Venturi:

    As for the slow movement of that flute concerto - it really does smack of the ZWV19 Agnus Dei... the closeness is truly uncanny, and surely implies that Zelenka's work in the 1740s didn't just fall away without being heard / noticed by anyone!

  • Great stuff! This sounds quite convincing. And no, I can’t recall this being mentioned in the literature, the reason perhaps being that CPE Bach’s cantata only recently resurfaced in the Sing-Akademie collection among a large cache of his works.

    Then I hope that my lucky find is the tip of the iceberg and other examples of Bach's Zelenka recycling efforts will be uncovered. On that note I have now thoroughly listened to the Inauguration Cantata's disc (it was a live concert given in the Leipzig Thomaskirche on the exact 300th anniversary of CPE's birth in 2014). It's a very curious disc and I highly recommend it. I have to say, knowing Bach's other work pretty well, I am doubtful that most of the music of these cantatas is his original work (the recitatives maybe :) ). Besides Zelenka he was one of the most idiosyncratic composers of the 18th Century. I am missing that here (that is not to say he has not made big contributions in updating the orchestration, as we see in the ZWV 11 excerpt).

    In particular there is one number on the disc that really catches my attention. That is the first chorus (Dich rühmen wir großer Schöpfer) of the other cantata on the disc (Wer sich rühmen will, H.821o). I have listened to it on repeat and tried to remove in my mind the somewhat tacky trumpets and drums. What is left could very easily be Zelenka - it carries many of his hallmarks, in particular the syncopation and the polyphonic choral writing. The German words also seem rather clunky in this chorus, suggesting it was previously in Latin. I am curious what you make of it. Could this be part of a missing psalm setting?

    The last aria of the disc "Tritt hin, den heil'gen Eid zu schwören" is also blatantly not from CPE's pen. It could also quite reasonably be Zelenka but probably even more likely Hasse or a Neapolitan composer.

    That second cantata was "written" in 1787 by the way. Extraordinary that Bach was churning out such music in the year when Mozart's Don Giovanni premièred!

    Regarding the ZWV 19 Agnus, I always felt that that work was the closest of all of Zelenka's output to CPE's style. But since the general agreement seems to be that those last masses just laid in a drawer somewhere I put such Zelenka-CPE fantasies out of my mind. Now I am surprised and pleased that there may be something concrete to link these works and possibly confirm some influence of Zelenka on the young Bach.

  • All very interesting. A further study, showing in a systematic academic way the similarities between the above mentioned examples of CPE and Zelenka, is clearly needed here. Robin, why don’t you present this in a paper for the Zelenka Conference 2018? This would be a good follow up to the study of professor Ottenberg.

    In reference to the last paragraph, however, I’d like to happily state that I do not ascribe to the “general agreement” about the “drawer” myth since it hardly holds up when one examines the sources – for me this is the rhetoric of the “old and romantic” opinions about Zelenka. In light of all the recent archival discoveries, and especially my co-written article with Jan Stockigt (Clavibus Unitis, 4, 2015), I urge everyone to question and challenge the old myths, including this one. Imaging Zelenka writing music simply just to shelf away does not make any sense.

  • Great find !
    According to here, the chorus "Dich rühmen wir großer Schöpfer" is a parody of Benda, Kantate "Danket dem Herrn Zebaoth" (manuscript).

    Thanks for pointing that out. I was on that page before and somehow overlooked the information on non-Bach sources! I do not know Benda well enough to judge if it is indeed by him. I still find it shows many of Zelenka's characteristics ... Maybe Benda got to know Zelenka's music during his training in a Jesuit college in Bohemia?

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