Miserere ZWV56 by Collegium 1704

  • [FONT=&amp]https://collegium1704.com/en/universo-1704/miserere/

    Please check out this newest performance by the Czech ensemble, of the *other* Miserere, ZWV56 in D minor from 1722 (not the famous ZWV57 in C minor from 1738). They did a fantastic job.

    This piece was written for Lenten Holy Week sacred music, finishing Matins in the afternoon (as it was customarily held in Dresden).
    From Dr. Janice Stockigt's book:

    '...Zelenka set Ps. 50(51), Miserere (ZWV56), an extended work comprising several polyphonic movements, including retrograde canons for the setting of verse 15, 'Docebo. . . convertentur (titled 'Versetto circolare'). This movement was later retexted and published at the conclusion of the fourth lesson of Telemann's fortnightly journal Der getreue Musicmeister (...began in 1728) as 'Canon mit 14 Verkehrungen' (ZWV179 [Cantate Domino]).' - pg. 113.

    The polyphony is interesting indeed, but there's plenty of other good stuff in it too. The opening is probably my favourite. Note that the second, ostinato, movement is the same composition as the Christe Eleison from ZWV26, recorded last year by Collegium 1704 in 'Missa 1724'.

    Dr. Stockigt also cites how the piece was received (or almost received) by the Catholic Royal Court in Dresden in 1722, quoting from the Jesuit Diarium:

    "[Wednesday in Holy Week, 1 April] At about 3.30pm. Matins, Lamentations and Responses, Benedictus and finally, the Miserere, composed by Zelenka. The Prince and Princess were present throughout Matins. However, as the composed works were too long, the Prince had someone persuade Zelenka to shorten the singing. As a result the Miserere was omitted , and on subsequent days it was read in the usual manner." - pg. 87.

    Poor Mr. Zelenka! He should have seen it coming, though :D

    Then in 1737 this note is made by the Jesuits:
    "8 Apr. At four o'clock, a very long Miserere was produced by Zelenka." - pg. 219.
    Presumably, therefore, he got it out there in the end, unless they're referring to the other famous one, perhaps performed the year previous to the dating.

    Enjoy listening, thanks to Collegium 1704.


  • Yes Seb, another holy moment with the Master. What an incredibly beautiful work this is and with many familiar passages reused in later works. It was well worth the long wait. Glad that Luks and Collegium 1704 did record this, as it links nicely with their epic recording of ZWV 55. The ensemble sounds very good, the tempo is natural and overall it’s a performance of great maturity and elegance.

    As for the circumstances for the request of prince Friedrich August to Zelenka to omit the Miserere in 1722, this has been explained by Jan Stockigt (as I did recount in a Forum entry in 2010):

    "There was a reason for this (as Jan Stockigt has pointed out in her paper about the churchings of Crown Princess Maria Josepha); at the time Maria Josepha was pregnant and probably could not sit still for long. In fact she would have complications and the boy she gave birth to, the wonderful friend of music Friedrich Christian, was born with a congenital physical defect [cerebral palsy]."

    Re the Miserere performed in 1737: I seriously doubt ZWV 56 was the long work heard on that occasion, there’s nothing there for the Italian castrati and trombones were, according to the late Wolfgang Horn, not used in Dresden after 1725. ZWV 57 is composed in 1738. But Zelenka directed not only his own works in the Catholic court church, but also those of others. By the mid-1730s he had several settings of the text in his grand-arsenal, including at least three prepared at exactly that time. The longest might be by Villicus – the score (D-Dl, Mus.2820-D-1) is 67 pages (I have not counted the bars). The score copied by ZS1 is from the mid-1730s, with Zelenka markings and additions. Another setting copied by the same scribe at the time is by Caldara (Mus.2170-E-4); his music was performed often during this period. Another Miserere from Zelenka’s collection that comes to mind is the third setting of "Signor. G:K:", which I have argued is Zelenka’s student and fellow double bass player of the Hofkapelle, Johann Samuel Kaÿser (Giovanni Kaÿser), who worked closely with the Bohemian from 1733 onwards. The score of the third G:K: setting has been dated by ca. 1736-1739 by W.Horn. The settings by Gottlob Harrer and Augustin Uhlig, two other Zelenka students, also date from this period but are shorter I think.

    Finally, while I am thrilled with the great new recording of ZWV 56, my heart sinks when I read the accompanying notes. There’s just so much which is wrong and factually incorrect there, it’s embarrassing. I can not understand why such a brilliant orchestra, which takes such good care of all the smallest details in the music, can present these badly informed texts to its listeners. Anyway, I do hope that someone can open up the eyes of Luks and co. to all the fine studies that have been published in the last 10 years about the life of our composer.

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