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!
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