New Missa Omnium Sanctorum recording by Ensemble Inégal.

  • This is to announce an upcoming recording of Zelenka's last mass, Missa Omnium Sanctorum ZWV 21, by Ensemble Inégal conducted by Adam Viktora. The supporting work will be Barbara dira effera (ZWV 164), which has not been recorded before. The recording is planned for the end of June/beginning of July.

    I am particularly excited about this because the existing recording of ZWV 21 (by Frieder Bernius on Sony) was never released internationally, is currently unavailable, and will probably never be released again.

    It looks as if Ensemble Inégal has done it again! They will release another CD with a world-première recording. But this time it will also contain the ultimate Zelenka mass.

  • Thanks Alistair, this is of course absolutely terrific news which will get the champagne flowing my quarters! The mighty Ensemble Inégal to tackle the last Mass is a mouthwatering thought. The Bernius CD is a great inspired recording which is hard to fault, but Adam and his fantastic group are so burning hot these days it promises to be something extraordinary.

    And finally we will get to hear that Barbara dira effera, which someone described as a "rage aria for the church", when Musica Antiqua Köln (MAK, RIP) performed it on their farewell tour in the US in 2006. Ever since reading Jan Stockigt's stark criticism of this work in her book, I've been dying to hear it. The leader of MAK, Reinhard Goebel, felt the same; in his opening remarks for the Pisendel conference in Dresden in 2005, he talked about Jan's book (lavishing praise on it) and how her description of Barbara dira effera made him very curious to check it out, which resulted in that he felt compelled to perform it with his band.


    Thrilling news! Ensemble Inegal makes dreams come true! Again!
    Adam Victora is currently one of the three major Zelenka interpreters (next to Bernius and Luks). His ensemble's audacious choice to take upon themselves the responsibility to record ZWV 21 «Missa Omnium Sanctorum» must rank among the most important decisions made in the early music world in our time. Although listening to Zelenka is a rewarding experience, he is frighteningly (?) difficult to perform. But the incredible Ensemble Inegal, which has already given us so many happy moments, proves – again and again – to have both the technical and interpretative skills needed in every aspect of the performance. Instrumentalists, choruses and soloists are the perfect parts in a complex machinery which runs smoothly due to Victoria's insightful direction. Besides, there is something independent and self-made about their production process as a whole (sources, performance, recording) that is truly exceptional. Patient transcriptions from often problematic original manuscripts is the only way to bring masterpieces with no modern performance tradition back from the depths of oblivion. Ensemble Inegal & collaborators incarnate a miraculous combination of systematic, diligent studies, outstanding musicianship and courage in the face of unknown performance challenges.

    Initially the idea to record ZWV 21 together with a transformational work like the "Barbara dira effera" (ZWV 164) didn't seem obvious to me, but the project becomes more appealing the more I think about it. ZWV 164 is apparently a rare source on JDZ's supposed identity crisis around 1733: Imagine how we in this «rage aria for the church» meet Zelenka in the midst of a battle with opposing musical forces within himself, a battle from which – as we all know – he emerged victorious (e.g. ZWV 21). According to Stockigt's long analysis (pp. 229-234) of this motet, its «first movement [was] one of Zelenka's least successful compositions» (p. 230), a bombastic caricature of the surface features of his style. Interestingly, she connects her criticism with references to Talbot's similar negative judgement on the Zelenkisms in ZWV 177 (which she herself doesn't discuss). Even its title, «Il Diamante», was still unknown then, and only Ensemble Inegal's paradigmatic performance of the serenata in 2009 permitted a complete re-evaluation of its quality. What if the same is true for ZWV 164? In a year or so listeners should be able to answer this question...

    So we can certainly look forward to an interesting contextualization of the «ultimate Mass». But despite this, I cannot refrain myself from bringing to your attention one – only one – crucial detail missing from this same context: THE ANNOUNCED PROGRAM WOULD BE THE MOST NATURAL PLACE TO INCLUDE THE ONLY COMPOSITION FROM ZELENKA'S «MISSAE ULTIMAE»-PROJECT THAT HAS NEVER BEEN RECORDED AT ALL. There seems to exist agreement about its corresponding dating (c.1740), instrumentation (strings & b.c.) and successfully developed late style features: Of course I'm thinking about the alto aria «CHRISTE ELEISON», (ZWV 29), a homeless fragment in other contexts, small in size but great in quality/importance. It's apparently the last (known) still missing piece in our picture of the ultimate Zelenka. ZWV 29's limited length should make it realistic to finish relevant manuscript studies before the recording deadline in June-July, and all three works (ZWV 21, 29, 164) ought to fit into one CD. Finally I'll quote what Stockigt convincingly, and of striking importance to us, reports about ZWV 29: «(...) it is observed that the paper and format of the source correspond to those of the final Mass settings and the Litany of Loreto of 1744 (ZWV 152). It is argued that, although tempting to consider this «Christe eleison» as a movement from an incomplete «Missa ultimae», it is more likely that it was intended to replace a «Christe eleison» from one of the final masses (probably «Missa Omnium Sanctorum» of 1741, whose «Christe eleison» was taken over into «Litaniae Lauretanae `Consolatrix afflictorum´» of 1744 by Zelenka)» (p. 226, footnote 58).

    I would very much like to receive feedback from the forum members on my suggestion, as well as about Stockigt's (and many others') hypothesis regarding the aria ZWV 29. But above all I would have been infinitely grateful, if time permits, to know Ensemble Inegal's own opinion about the last remaining "Missae ultimae"-movement.

  • According to Ensemble Inegal's website (, Zelenka's "Christe eleison" (Zwv 29) ends their pioneering concert program this evening after "Missa omnium sanctorum" (Zwv 21) and the motet "Barbara dira effera" (Zwv 164). This presumably means that the aria is going to be included in the subsequent recording. Zwv 29 is probably the only known part from the "Missae ultimae"- project still unrecorded, and recent research by Stockigt appears to indicate that the most convincing way to contextualize Zwv 29 would actually be in connection with a Zwv 21-recording. (See my earlier research-reminder comment above).

    These arguments seem so clear that Adam Victora & collaborators easily can have realized them indepentently. But if ideas from the Zelenka Forum somehow might have inspired the choices of the avantguarde Zelenka-interpreters of our time, however remotely and modestly, it would be no less than an enormous honour for and recognition of the Zelenka website!

    I'm very sad for having been unable to go to this revolutionary concert today. Hopefully someone luckier than me is willing to share his/ her concert experience with all unfortunate forum members...

  • Thank you very much, both for the compliment an for your initiative!!:D Simultaneuosly, however, this idea must be seen as part of a collaborative effort, and a product of the Zelenka-Forum as such. And even then I disregard the fact that the final stage, Ensemble Inegal's performance, is by far the more important.

  • Nibiru have told me that Janice Stockigt is writing the notes for the booklet of this CD issue. So between the professionalism of the performers and the very informed notes that will come to us from Australia, this issue may be one of the most important Zelenka releases ever.

  • Dear Lord, what a surprise, in my favourite moment in all Zelenka, the "Et vitam venturi saeculi" fugue, they sing the countersubject ("Amen") staccato! I will find this hard to get used to, I'm afraid...

    ...and unfortunately it's Kai Wessel again, we can already hear him struggling with "Barbara dira effera" in the small excerpt provided. Well, what can we do, maybe someone else will bring out the beauty in the piece in the future. I'm buying 3 copies :)

  • Elwro,

    Today I had to smile to myself several times at work. Wonderful sarcasm.

    I agree with the staccatto in the countersubject. Sounds ha-ha-ha in my ears. But the other movements in Zwv 21 sounds ok, which I looking forward to hear in complete form.

    "Barbara, dira effera" Zwv 164; I like the orchestra playing, thou I would prefere Robin Blaze sing this one. When I listened to the youtube version (1:09-1:17) provided by Stian (l'infastidito) its fun to recognize Zelenka use the same "material" in Zwv 152 movement 7 "Regina.." (0:16-0:25 in my recording). Mr. Recycle indeed.

  • :D And they're quick too! Ordered 28 November, arrived UK today 1st December! Now happily comparing with Bernius! First impressions very favourable, and 2 important new works to boot, perhaps thanks to colleagues on this website?!:D

  • Well, after having lived with the CD for some time I must say how happy I am with the outcome. The Christe eleison is deeply moving aria and well interpreted by Kai Wessel. Here, the string playing is absolutely out of this world. One senses Zelenka's complete mastery when it comes to the word painting and orchestral effects. The Barbara dira effera! is another rocket in the spirit of Il Diamante, a collage of familiar themes. Adam Viktora has done us Zelenka fans great service by bringing out this motet and the serenata, which show that our composer was well capable of writing some terrific music in the operatic style with his unique voice – in spite of what some of the musicologist say.

    Bernius is a tough act to follow when it comes to the Missa Omnium Sanctorum, I think most of us agree on that. His is a fine version which is hard to critizise. There is one thing I do admire with Bernius – the intensity and excitement of the music making can always be felt. As I have stated elsewhere in the Forum, I still feel that his reading of the Missa Dei Patris is the pinnacle of all Zelenka recordings.

    Adam Viktora's version of ZWV 21 is wonderful as well, and of course different. Well performed as usual by Ensemble Inegal, it has got convincing and natural tempos, good singing (by a smaller choir than Bernius uses), and most of all, a reading committed to Zelenka's autograph. It sounds "sharper", more precise. There are some things that Bernius interpreted differently when it comes to the autograph. This I learned last summer while visiting Prague in the company of Zelenka scholar Janice Stockigt.

    We had the pleasure to spend a day with Adam and Gabriela and their lovely kids. I had brought a copy of the autograph from Dresden for Adam in preparation of the recording, and was thrilled to listen in when he and Janice discussed the different instructions and important details that Zelenka left in the score. One of the things I remember is that Zelenka's idea of using legato "Et vitam..." and staccato "Amen" simultaneously, was mentioned as being a good example of his orginality: I took note because like Elwro, I love this movement. Zelenka has used this to good effect before, for example in the Cum sancto spiritu in Missa S. Josephi, and in the Pleni sunt coeli in Missa Purificationis.

    So now we have two great versions of Zelenka's last Mass. I do wonder if we'll get the third one soon? I see that Vaclav Luks and his Collegium 1704 will be performing the work late next year, that is very exciting news. Anyway, I must add that now that we've heard Adam's reading with all its attention to detail, I do wish he will continue to give us more of the late Masses. Be sure, I have already made that request to him, on more than one occasion!


    I just wanted to add my congratulations to the chorus. A miracle of a recording is it, from almost every thinkable point of view. if possible, my admiration for Ensemble Inegal's achievements has increased even more. With an apparent effortlessness that must have required a lot of effort,
    conductor Victora leads us trough choral fugues, choruses, ensemble pieces and arias in an uninterrupted succession of highlights. But among all these triumphs, the collective vocal-instrumental achievement should be regarded as the very greatest. Choruses and choral movements are so enthusiastically performed that one could believe their lives depended on it. When this is combined with the professionality and insight into Zelenka all participants have acquired gradually from years of accumulated experience with the master's intricate musical language, this was destined to become one of the best Jan Dismas zelenka -CDs ever made. If the soloist contributions
    here equal Bernius' legendary CD, the choral movements in my opinion clearly surpass him.
    Of course I feel even more confident than 10 months ago that this was the right occasion to record ZWV 29. Coincidentally (maybe), by juxtaposing ZWVs 29 & 164 on the CD, Ensemble Inegal manages to highlight the stylistical opposites in Zelenka's late works. And finally music lovers in search of the angriest bassoon in the history of baroque music have "Barbara, dira, effera!" (ZWV 164) to refer to. Victora confirms the revelatory experience with the Zelenkisms from "Il Diamante" in 2009, in another paradigmatic performance. Respected experts are again compelled to reevaluate.

    Now I'm just as embarassed by my preconceived ideas not sufficiently based on listening experience (see paragraph below), as Stockigt and Talbot must be over their Zelenkism-commentaries.... Under normal circumstances such musicological opinions would have put ZWVs 164 & 177 last in the line of works considered worthy of attention. But nothing is simply normal with Victora's deep understanding and superior judgement of JDZ's musical language.

    Not only experts, but also amateurs like me must accept Adam Victora's
    superior judgement on Zelenka issues. As someone who generally prefers contraltos singing with their natural voice to countertenors in castrato roles, I had my preestablished attitude challenged by Wessel's heroic performance. Although the soloists were all excellent, he has the lion's share of solo pieces and deserves special mention. Before hearing the CD, I tried to think out how to speak diplomatically about my initial disappointment with the choice of a countertenor. Although I still prefer female altos in general, and although it's unfortunate, as Elwro pointed out earlier, that Kai Wessel
    stumbles straight into the most acrobatic moments of ZWV 164 in the short track sample, the total impression upon having heard everything is different. Close to perfect is his timing in the ensemble pieces, in full understanding of the music's relation to the text. What his vocal instrument inevitably lacks in natural power and virttuosity is more than compensated for by experienced judgement/ use of his voice type's own expressive possibilities. Poetical and tender is Wessel in ZWV 29 - again I'm grateful to E.I. for recording this extra number. It was worth the effort - ,and convincingly angry - like the bassoon - in ZWV 164.
    At the end of the day, the interpretation counts more than the instrument.

    This confession leads me to my final comment: Djdresden is (as always) right about the other "Missae ultimae". Like all major works in music history they need several independent interpretations that shed light on different aspects in them. But regarding JDZ many important works are not yet recorded at all, or inadequately so, while the manuscripts' health condition is getting worse every year (see my 2nd post today).
    Maybe it is the appropriate time to celebrate Janice B. Stockigt, the probably most influential Zelenka expert alive, her impressive scholarship and Zelenka-commitment by recording the middle-period highpoint "Missa Divi Xavieri" (ZWV 12)? Her positive judgement of the then (before 2000) unknown ZWV 155 was also spot-on. In her doctoral thesis she has apparently spent comparatively more time reconstructing and analyzing the ZWV 12 than any other compisition, and it seems that she has worked on it later as well (this is more difficult to know in detail, of course). ZWV 12 is a real musicological challege with a damaged autograph score - TIME ISN'T ON OUR SIDE - and several supplementary sources.
    Whatever Ensemble Inegal decides in the future, one thing is certain, as pointed out in the title: Victora's own judgement has always conquered everyone else's in the end.

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