Zelenka Conferences Prague 2017 & 2018 report

  • Dear all,

    This is a long overdue summation of the latest in Zelenka-related research, as given at the Prague Conferences 2017 & 2018. As I am relying mostly on my memory, please forgive its rough & cursory nature. I have done this in no particular order. Where possible, I have included links to theses and research papers which go into fuller detail.
    As you will see, the past two years have seen a well-spring of information for Zelenka studies which hopefully will keep going into the future. I write this to try and inform and inspire people with this fascinating field of research.

    I hope it will prove satisfactory, but, nothing can compare with the real thing - I warmly encourage anyone particularly interested in Zelenka to come along for next year's Festival and Conference. Each year is a very special gathering in itself, but next year's will be extra-special, as it is the 340th anniversary of his birth.

    I may update this in the future, as I have been just relying on my memory (my notes have ashamedly gone walkabouts...). If you would like to correct anything, please PM me. And, of course, if you find something of particular interest here, please reply below to start a discussion!

    Best wishes,



    Registers of Lounovice pod Blaníkem - 2017 & 2018 conferences

    Seb Sanyal (2017)
    In my paper, I showed some of my findings from the parish baptismal registers of Zelenka's home town. The most surprising element to come out of this was that Zelenka's father, Jiří, must have had a fascination with Astrology. This was already discovered in the 1950s by Czech historian Jan Palecek. Jiri Zelenka was the author of the registers from the mid 1675 till up to around 1712. Very occasionally he adds a note describing the zodiacal moon sign under which the child was born ('rozena' or 'rozen'). Our Jan Lukáš' birth was "on Aquarius" ('na vodnáří'). Knowing this, by looking at astrological calculators, the actual day of his birth can be narrowed down to either the 13th or 14th of October - most likely 14th, because he was baptised on the 16th, and this would be as soon as possible after his birth. I thank Johannes, djdresden, for his help with this.
    The key conclusion of my paper is that the Zelenka family maintained connections with the nobility of the surrounding area. This may have provided the eldest son, our composer, to go onto Prague and serve under the Hartig family. The big question mark is how and when this occurred. We know that Zelenka must have already developed connections to the Prague Jesuits by 1704, as this was the date of the school play, Via Laureta. In my paper I have speculated that connections with local nobility may have been the natural first step for the young Zelenka. I point to one local noble family, especially, the 'Malovec z Malovic' family. They certainly were close to the Zelenkas by the fact that the head of the family, the widow Marie Veroníka neé Svihovský z Rýzmberka was Godmother to Zelenka's sister born in 1685, Marie Veroníka - named after the noblewoman. She purportedly had a residence in Prague, and there was a castle south of Lounovice pod Blaníkem which was their central abode. Was this the family which helped to financially support Zelenka's musical talent? At the moment this is purely speculation, and needs more research in order to come to any proper conclusions.

    Lukáš Vokřínek (2018)
    This year a paper was presented on ‘godparenthood’ in the mid-late seventeenth-century, and more specifically on the network of names as they appeared in the Lounovice registers in connection to the Zelenka family. Mr. Vokřínek has done extremely thorough genealogical work, going deeply into the source material, including also the Marital and Death registers. He presented tables tallying up the number of times various individuals in the community were noted down as Godparents or witnesses (Godparenthood came in three different levels of involvement / importance). The Zelenka family came out high up on the frequency chart. Vokřínek finished his presentation by including the Godparents of the Zelenka family, a few names cropped up as potentially being of some importance.
    It is hoped that the research into these registers could eventually provide clues into how, when and where Zelenka went on to develop his musical talents. It is a great field to work with, seeing as almost nothing is known about the first 30 years of his life.

    Dr. Jiří Kroupa (Prague)

    2017 – A new interpretation of Zelenka’s dedication formulae
    Last year’s paper by Dr. Kroupa was the most amazing surprise for me. He completely re-interpreted JDZ's dedication formulae (O.A.M.D.G B.V.M OO. SS. and its variations), and blew out of the water the idea, unchallenged till now, that 'P.I.R' or ‘PP I R’ meant a reference to the commissioning patrons (ie. the Saxon Royal couple). Kroupa’s alternative explanation was that Zelenka was using the ending as was typical amongst seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century Jesuit writings in Bohemia. I cannot remember the exact details to his theory, but it involved ‘i H.’ meaning ‘in Honorem’, and ‘i. R.’ meaning ‘in Reverentiam’. He gave several examples of similar dedication formulae from Bohemian Jesuit publications which use, more or less, the same formulae. Kroupa delivered the paper with great boldness, and I personally found it thoroughly convincing. It remains to be seen if he was correct and if it is to be accepted by other academics.

    2018 –Zelenka’s library: Fiction or reality?
    Dr. Kroupa’s contribution at this year’s conference was a paper trying to address the question of whether Zelenka’s library could be reconstructed. Kroupa contends that we can approximate based on his hypothetical Jesuit education as to what kind of books he must have had in his collection. He focused in particular on Michael Praetorius’ Syntagma Musicum, a early seventeenth-century work on musical symbolism and rhetoric which, he argues, Zelenka most certainly would have read and kept in possession. Kroupa also presented a manuscript which contained a dedicatory formula similar to Zelenka’s, and also a signature ‘Zelenka’. It seemed to be very similar to Zelenka’s handwriting, however, this was then corrected by Prague musicologist, Tomislav Volek, who argued that this was more likely to have been one of the other confirmed students in Prague also under the name of Zelenka at the start of the eighteenth-century.

    Dr. Janice Stockigt (Melbourne, Australia)

    2017 – From Bohemia to Dresden: JDZ’s collection of sacred music
    Dr. Jan Stockigt presented a paper on the pattern of exchange of Zelenka's music across the Dresden-Bohemia border. She showed that Zelenka kept in contact with a few key Bohemian monasteries, churches, and their music directors by exchanging his own compositions with works from their music collections. The theory, proven convincingly by Stockigt, is that Zelenka in his Inventarium briefly denotes where he had obtained new music, for example with an ‘O.’ for the Cistercian monastery at Osek in Northern Bohemia and the letter ‘P’ for a person or a place (possible Prague). The conclusion is that Zelenka maintained many contacts in his homeland and that most copies of his music now kept in the Czech Republic were the result of such exchanges.

    2018 – Zelenka Monograph, launch of Czech edition
    This was a very special occasion whereby Professor Stockigt gave a brief talk on the writing of her 2000 book ‘Jan Dismas Zelenka: A Bohemian Musician at the Court of Dresden’. It has been translated into Czech by Vysehrad publishers. This edition seems to have garnished a lot of attention, and all the book copies were sold by the end of the conference! Janice Stockigt gave a very warm and touching speech, and personally signed many copies for people.

    Andrew Frampton (Oxford, UK)

    2017 – Zelenka’s reworking of a Palestrina mass as shown in a recently discovered manuscript
    Andrew Frampton presented a paper on the discovery of a previously unknown manuscript, which turned out to be Zelenka’s arrangement of the ‘Credo’ from one of Palestrina’s most famous Masses, Missa Papae Marcelli. Frampton focused on one page of parts for a soloist which, unusually, was incorrectly labelled in the SLUB archive. This was an interesting glimpse into how singers in the Dresden Catholic Court Church may have performed the great polyphonic work of Palestrina, with Zelenka’s expert arrangement.

    2018 – From Dresden to Berlin: the Missa Sancti Spiritus (ZWV 4) as a case study in eighteenth-century Zelenka source transmission
    In this paper, Andrew Frampton unpacked the complex transmission history of this fascinating Mass. He shows how it is possible, through a study of the copies and versions of this work, to piece together and approximate the final version that would have been performed in Dresden in the 1720s. The principal copy is by Johann Gottlob Harrer, Zelenka's student, who went on to the Thomasschule Leipzig after the death of J.S. Bach. It can be found today in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Because Harrer's version can be compared with the original autograph, which itself has many layers of addition and corrections to it, a number of conclusions can be made about orchestration and phrasing. Through a lot of painstaking work, Frampton has revealed the six-year history (1723-1729) of Missa Sancti Spiritus ZWV4. The Mass was premiered in Prague at the end of the festival with huge success. For more detailed information, you can see Andrew’s thesis here: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/56429

  • Frederic Kiernan (Melbourne University, Australia)

    2017 – Zelenka in Czech Literature
    This was a fascinating paper which discussed how Zelenka was perceived and portrayed in Bohemia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The key findings are that Zelenka was portrayed as a character by Czech national literary figure, Alois Jirásek in the early twentieth-century, and also later by Zdeněk Gintl in the mid-twentieth century, in a children’s novelette. Fred Kiernan showed how Zelenka was portrayed through the lens of various ideological purposes, in this case a national-Romantic one.

    2018 – Zelenka’s identity in the nineteenth century: dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other literature

    Fred Kiernan traces the various stages of musical criticism of Zelenka, from the glowing Romantic treatment of Johann Friedrich Rochlitz to the gloomy portrayal of Moritz Fürstenau. Kiernan shows categorically that, up to Furstenau, the idea of Zelenka dying an embittered man did not exist.
    For more on Frederic Kiernan’s research into Zelenka reception in the nineteenth-century, please see: https://www.academia.edu/26012…_century_Some_new_sources
    Unfortunately there are many details that I have been unable to include here, but hopefully will be available in the future through Fred's PhD research publications.

    Dr. Michael Driscoll
    (Boston, USA)

    2017 – Zelenka’s arrangements of ‘Dixit Dominus’ settings by other composers
    Dr. Driscoll presented his research on Zelenka’s arrangements of other composers’ settings of Dixit Dominus. These were ones that come from Zelenka’s ‘Psalmi variorum authorum’ (in the Inventarium), by the composers Guiseppe Ottavio Pitoni, Annibale Pio Fabri and Tomaso Ige[g]nieri. Driscoll showed how each had received considerable additions by Zelenka, particularly in terms of stringed orchestration. For more detailed information, you can find his thesis fully available here: https://open.bu.edu/handle/2144/19581

    Dr. Vacláv Kapsa (Prague)
    2018 – Sacred music in Prague in 1730s-1740s - Inventory of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star
    Václav Kapsa presented a survey of the musical collection of the Knights of the Cross with the Red-star in Prague. He gave a ‘top 10 chart’, showing the most popular composers. Zelenka, however, is very low down on the list. Kapsa has identified a small handful of works which are kept there, and some of which are now lost. One interesting piece was a cantata which doesn’t seem to exist outside the catalogue, but is unfortunately not extant. Kapsa’s paper was very thorough, showing how archives can be well analysed.

    Maria Sawinkowa (Russia)
    2018 – Dresden Manuscript collection in Moscow
    Conductor Maria Sawinkowa showed gave an important glimpse into the manuscripts held in Moscow taken there at the end of the Second World War. This is a sad story which she outlined, whereby the Soviet army in 1945 ransacked Dresden and had sent boxes of cultural materials back to Russia. This was called off by Soviet HQ, but the command arrived to late to be executed. These materials were kept for a while, archived and studied, but were eventually dispersed across city archives of the former Soviet Union. The biggest portion of Zelenka-related materials which are missing from Dresden are the parts books for soloists and musicians.
    She presented her research, which looked at three manuscripts which she was granted access to. One of these was a copy of Allegri’s Miserere. She showed pictures which clearly showed Zelenka’s hand. This is very exciting, and hopefully more will be discovered in Russia!

    Kjartan Oskarsson (Reykjavik, Iceland)
    2018 - Zelenka and the Chalumeau
    This paper was a very interesting look at Zelenka’s writing for the Chalumeau. Oskarsson shared how he was immediately drawn to this subject after hearing it and thinking that it was comparable in its chromaticism to twentieth-century jazz! If I can recall correctly, Oskarsson speculates as to why the range is so large in Zelenka’s chalumeau-writing, and concludes that it may have been thanks to experimental instrumentation by a Viennese chalumeauist who was employed by the Dresden Court. Almost all of the chalumeau pieces have been recorded, other than Missa Eucharistica ZWV 15, the Qui Tollis of which he emphasised as being special.

    Libor Mašek (Prague, CZ)
    2017 - Hledání ideální podoby přepisu Zelenkových skladeb (Searching for the ideal way of transcribing Zelenka’s works)
    Mašek is one of Ensemble Inégal’s cellists, who shared his years of experience in approaching Zelenka’s writing in order to deliver performance copies for the musicians and singers of the ensemble. Mašek covered meticulously details in Zelenka’s style of writing that become evident after studying his manuscripts closely, which are essential in order to achieve the right musical scores and parts.

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