Zelenka: important manuscript discovery

  • Dear friends,

    I am pleased to inform you today of a sensational Zelenka musical manuscript discovery.

    A joint investigation with my Icelandic colleague Kjartan Óskarsson led us early last year to an European library where we uncovered a previously unknown 19th-century copy of Zelenka's Statio quadruplex pro Processione Theophorica (ZWV 158). According to the official work list (ZWV) this is probably Zelenka's earliest preserved work, and must have been composed in Prague sometime pre-1710 for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Only the first section of four is preserved in the Dresden library (SLUB) in Zelenka’s own handwriting, but the three remaining sections are lost. Nine parts once existed in Dresden but these went missing in 1945.

    The newly discovered score now gives us the full picture. Sections 1-2 are for four voices (SATB) and organ, and sections 3-4 for eight voices (SSAATTBB) and organ. The most amazing thing here is that the fourth and final section is Da pacem Domine, which Zelenka orchestrated so brilliantly three decades later (ZWV 167, ca. 1740).

    We are now working on an article with the distinguished scholar Michael Talbot, which reveals further details of this find and provides a full musical analysis of this truly extraordinary score. Hopefully we will be able to publish this early next year. And I have just been in contact with Adam Viktora of the Ensemble Inégal, who plans to record the music for release next year.

    Statio quadruplex pro Processione Theophorica will receive its modern-day premiere here in Iceland next month, in the Sumartónleikar í Skálholti (Skálholt Music Festival). The brilliant Icelandic tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson has recently been appointed the musical director of this long-established festival, and as a result the program this year is very ambitious and exciting. The flutist Jana Semerádóva, founder and leader of the excellent Prague ensemble Collegium Marianum, will direct the Icelandic baroque group Brák and singers such as Kristjánsson and the counter-tenor David Erler in a program dedicated to the music of our beloved Zelenka. Alongside the newly discovered work, another gem from Zelenka's Prague years will be performed: this is Immisit Dominus pestilentiam (ZWV 58, 1709), which Semerádóva recorded with her ensemble few years ago. Finally, the Litaniae Lauretanae “Consolatrix afflictorum” (ZWV 151, 1744), will round up this terrific program of early and late Zelenka works. For further information, see:

    Heim | Sumartónleikar í Skálholti
    Sumartónleikar í Skálholti fara fram fyrstu tvær helgarnar í júlí ár hvert.

    Menning | Ísland | Skálholt 1100 ár af sögu og menningu
    Skálholt er einn merkasti menningar- og sögustaður Íslands. Í Skálholti er helgihald, tónlist og tónleikar, kyrrðardagar, menningar- og sögutengdir viðburðir,…

    Jóhannes Ágústsson

  • Tears of joy.. looking forward to creating the score-video, the autograph score is already arranged, and I hope the newly discovered manuscripts will be digitalized - do you think that can be done?


    Zelenka was then also seen by Phoebus,

    who rightly praised him as follows:

    You most highly praised, perfect VIRTUOS,

    Your self-gained fame is world-renowned and great;

    You can for the Glory of God, delight the Soul,

    and movingly compose Church music,

    which is so touching, that the devotional Breast

    already experiences the Foretaste of Pleasures of Heavens;

    Therefore Your Praise will blossom according to your Name,

    Both here on Earth and on the stage of the Stars.

    - Johann Gottlob Kittel

  • Dear friends,

    Saturday is the premiere and first modern-day performance of Zelenka’s early work, ZWV 158, in Skálholt, Iceland. Like most of you I am very excited for this moment. I want to thank those who have written in the past few weeks with gratulations. This means the world to me. Those who know are well aware that I am not a learned scholar; my love for Zelenka is first and foremost for his music and since 2006 I have dedicated every single free moment of my life to find out more about our composer. As a result, I do care very much about the reputation of this good and honorable man, which has been soiled in the past by many musicologists.

    Based on my researches in the last few years I have enough material and new sources for at least 11 articles on our composer. These will appear in due time. In the meantime, I ask for your patience!

    With great appreciation and respect for every Zelenka fan on this website.


  • Friends,

    late into the beautiful Icelandic midnight sun I have the pleasure of reporting on the most incredible concert in Skálholt, Iceland, where Zelenka’s music was listened to in deep admiration by a packed church, followed by a standing ovation for the music and its performers. There were people around me with open mouths when Zelenka’s powerful choruses hit their ears. And tears were shed. Yes, he perched the hearts of the many listeners tonight, as he is wont to do.

    The setting was wonderful. I remember when, coming here as a young boy with my family and later many times with my school, I had a great reverence for this holy place, the seat of bishops in the past and a place of culture and knowledge. We were taught that this was one of the most important places in Iceland. And today, I felt this great feeling again in a different and stronger sense. Zelenka’s presence certainly added to the feeling and sense of occasion.

    In short, the performance of ZWV 158 was revelatory. We do not have anything like this in his oeuvre. Before the concert the singers were raving especially about the third section and its unusual composition and dissonances. I’ve mentioned Benedikt Kristjánsson above – as perhaps the finest tenor of his generation he is certainly no stranger to complex music – and he was mentally and physically affected by the dinner served by Zelenka this time. I, too, was stunned, to hear Zelenka’s treatment of the word Miserere. That blessed word was a never-ending inspiration for our composer. And here we have the earliest example!

    That said, there will be discussions on how ZWV 158 was performed tonight, and rightfully so. The first two sections, written for four voices, was performed this time by a double quartet. And it is specifically stated in the partiture of Zelenka of the first section, and the 19th century full copy that the only accompaniment should be the organ; tonight it was organ, cello and double bass. It was my immediate feeling that the music would benefit from a more simple setting of voice/organ, and a better separation of the singers.

    Either way, I am sure we will hear ZWV 158 again and in different settings. But the power of the music is undoubtedly great. Oh, and tonight also saw the performances of ZWV 58 Immisit Dominus pestilentam and the Litany “Consolatrix afflictorum” ZWV 151; both works were performed to the highest standards. Icelanders finally have a great baroque orchestra – Barokksveitin Brák – and some terrific singers. Benedikt is the star, but tonight the soprano Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir was just superb. The bass Oddur Arnþór Jónsson was also excellent, commanding and impressive, with a good and clear delivery of the text. He would have done well in Dresden.

    Tomorrow, or, rather today, Sunday, we will have another run of this program. AND: with the bonus of JSBach’s most brilliant cantata, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150, a devastatingly beautiful piece of music; that’s minimal Bach for you (1707). That’s at 14.00, Zelenka at 16.00. Until then…


  • Friends,

    my Sunday in Skálholt started off with a very nice cantata service in the church, and the music of Bach was beautifully played and sung by Benedikt Kristjánsson and his group. But here, the Leipzig cantor was only a hors d’oeuvre for the main course being served later. In short, the second performance of Zelenka’s music was even better than on Saturday – especially the Statio quadruplex pro Processione Theophorica (ZWV 158). I think the singers and the director Jana Semerádóva must have talked over what could have been done better, and one could hear it in the first notes being sung. It was perfectly natural for the singers to display some tension when premiering this difficult music Saturday, but this second take sounded more relaxed and Zelenka’s complex web of voices was clearer and brighter.

    This music is simply amazing and surprising. I still can not get my head around all of this. But it is clear that this is a major new Zelenka discovery, one that shows what a fine composer he was already in his Prague years and before he went to Dresden. I am currently working on an article about his early years in the Saxon capital, a study which will reveal the earliest Dresden source where he is mentioned, and the conclusions drawn from this fresh new archival find.

    The other works also benefitted from the singers and musicians celebrating Saturday evening their great performances and the bubbly flowing freely afterwards. Jana directed this group with her great musicality, charm and affection. I was in total awe when introduced to her! Zelenka’s Immisit Dominus pestilentiam (ZWV 58) was beautifully performed. My dear friend and colleague Kjartan Óskarsson played the chalumeau in the aria “Recordare, Domine” and did it very well. He and his wife, pianist Hrefna Eggertsdóttir, could look on with great pride; not only was their son Eggert Kjartansson (who once shared the Salzburg stage with Bartoli!) singing the tenor in the choir, but most, if not all, of the other singers and musicians were at some point their students. Btw, I highly recommend Óskarsson’s fine article about the chalumeau in Zelenka’s music, which was published by the Czech journal Clavibus unitis in 2019: https://www.acecs.cz/media/cu_2019_08_01_oskarsson.pdf – his article on Heinichen’s use of the chalumeau is in print and will appear soon. What will follow is his study on the chalumeau in the music of Hasse and Ristori, Zelenka’s colleagues.

    Final words: first, on the attendance for this unique occasion. For both concerts the church was packed with enthusiastic listeners. Afterwards I met many who had traveled both days the whole 90 minute drive from the capital Reykjavík. That’s the power and appeal of the great music of our Zelenka. Second, kudos to Benedikt Kristjánsson, who immediately realized the importance of Zelenka’s modern-day premiere of ZWV 158. His directorship of the Skálholt Music Festival begins in grand style. He later told me that these were perhaps the most intense and brilliant performances he had ever been part of here in Iceland. Hats off! Now I only have to persuade him to dedicate a program to three of Zelenka’s Dresden students; Johann Samuel Kaÿser, Tobias Buz and Augustin Uhlig!! What a concert that would be.


    PS I can not resist the urge to promote the new and exciting CD of Benedikt Kristjánsson where he sings the Judas arias and recitatives of Bach. This is now out on the Coviello label:


    • Official Post

    A remarkable report, Jóhannes, and so promising.

    It is clear that the past few decades have been a voyage of revelation and discovery in bringing Zelenka's life and spirit more fully to light. I often wonder, donning my spiritual cap, if the man himself is guiding it...

    We await to hear it (and see it) ourselves sometime in hopefully not too distant future.

    Deo Gratias!

  • Friends,

    a live recording of the historic concert in Iceland last year will be broadcast on Channel 1 (Rás 1) of the Icelandic National Radio (RÚV) on Easter Day, 31 March, at 16.00 GMT. Do tune in to hear the modern-day premiere of Zelenka’s long lost early work Statio quadruplex pro Processione Theophorica (ZWV 158), the details of which are given above, plus the two other fine pieces performed in this concert.

    More info here:


    The broadcast:


    The stream will be available in the radio archive until 30 April.



    • Official Post


  • ZWV 158 Misericordia Tue, Domine

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