15th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music

  • If you are interested in Zelenka, this is the place to be in mid-July! There will be two very important papers revealing new information about our composer, one from Jan Stockigt and one from Jóhannes Ágústsson.

    11-15 July University of Southampton, UK.


    Janice B. Stockigt
    Jan Dismas Zelenka: Recent Research.

    Jóhannes Ágústsson
    The secular vocal music collection of Jan
    Dismas Zelenka: A reconstruction?

  • We now wait eagerly to hear what was said about Zelenka in Southampton on 14 July! Who will be the first to enlighten us? :p

    Apart from those mentioned above, there were two other talks on Zelenka:

    Roberto Scoccimarro
    Jan Dismas Zelenka's settings of the Marian Antiphons.

    Patricia Corbin
    The Missa Dei Filii ZWV 20: An Introduction to the Late Masses of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745).

  • We haven't experienced a more significant contribution than this to the advancement of our knowledge about Zelenka in a long time. Like many others on this forum I regret having been unable to attend these updated expert debates on JDZ's compositions, especially because so many categories of works are treated simultaneously. Please take pity on us, you lucky ones!
    Participators in academic conferences of this kind usually have to present abstracts or introductions in advance. If at least these abstracts could be posted here, we would be infinitely grateful. Hopefully also the complete papers will be published either digitally or in book form, but if not, information about how to get access to them is most welcome.

  • It was fitting that the Polish musicologist Szymon Paczkowski chaired the session at Southampton. His discovery in 2007 of Kittel's Virtuosen poem from 1740 (see the relevant thread here in the Forum) is perhaps the single most important find for Zelenka research in recent times, because it showed how Zelenka's contemporaries experienced his music, and where he was placed in the hierarchy of the musical apparatus in Dresden (third, after Hasse and Faustina, the most famous musical couple of the 18th century). I can still remember when I first heard about this source and how it made me question everything that had been written about Zelenka, especially when it comes to the traditional image of Zelenka as an overshadowed composer held in low esteem by the Dresden court.

    And now, after many years of searching in the archives and libraries in Dresden and other locations, I have been able to uncover an abundance of new sources and biographical information which confirms Kittel's view. This has been considered and discussed with Janice Stockigt over a long period of time, and Southampton was the perfect occasion to present an overview of our conclusions. Our findings should help us to see Zelenka's legacy in new light, and question and challenge the usual image as it has been presented in the literature. What will hopefully follow is a complete reappraisal of his stature at the Dresden court, a court that was at the time considered by many to be the most brilliant in all of Europe, a court that only strived for the best in the arts and music, and this included employing the services of our composer.

    Stockigt's absolutely brilliant paper, simply called "Recent research", introduced these and other new archival findings, along with information on new musical sources etc. It was a landmark presentation from the most important scholar and authority on Zelenka and his life. For some time we have been working on a co-written article which will go into details about all the new discoveries, and this should appear in a publication next year. Until then I ask for your patience because it will be worth the wait. Here is the abstract from the conference book:

    Janice B. Stockigt:
    Jan Dismas Zelenka: Recent Research
    "More than one hundred years after the death of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745), Moritz Fürstenau wrote that this Dresden court church composer was a reserved, bigoted Catholic, but also a respectable, quiet, unassuming man deserving of the greatest respect – one who seemed to have lived a rather lonely and isolated life in Dresden. During the past decade research into the extensive documentation held at the Sächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Dresden from the era of Saxon Electors Friedrich August I (August II as King of Poland) and Friedrich August II (August III as King of Poland) has revealed additional information on the life and surroundings of this Bohemian composer which leads to a re-evaluation of certain assumptions held by Fürstenau and subsequent opinions sustained in the literature. Building on research undertaken since the mid-twentieth century, and including more recent studies, this paper reappraises and expands upon aspects of Zelenka‘s life, his responsibilities, and his stature at the Dresden court. Locations at which he lived are identified. The precarious financial crises experienced by Zelenka, and the help he sought to alleviate these will be re-examined. Information on Zelenka’s death in December 1745 and the exequies held for him have become available, and recently recovered musical sources from Dresden and elsewhere will be reported."

    My presentation focused mainly on Zelenka's activities in the early 1730s and a discovery that I made in the library in Dresden (SLUB). I've already been asked by an editor of a music journal to publish an extended version of this paper, and it should appear late in 2013. Again I ask for your patience. Here is the abstract from the conference book:

    Jóhannes Ágústsson:
    The secular vocal music collection of Jan Dismas Zelenka: A reconstruction
    "Those who study the numerous manuscripts in the possession of the Dresden court church composer Jan Dismas Zelenka soon become aware of the numbering system he used to keep his collection in order. The numerals he wrote on the scores or the wrappers enclosing them match the position of the same works listed in different sections of his Inventarium of sacred music. The presence of these numbers can be taken as firm evidence of his ownership. While it has been acknowledged that Zelenka owned a few manuscripts of operatic arias, no research has been undertaken on this subject. During a systematic trawl in the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden I found what are possibly the remnants of Zelenka’s private collection of arias, duets and cantatas. All these manuscripts are numbered in the usual way by the owner, and this fact strongly suggests that Zelenka prepared another inventory, today lost, for his collection of secular vocal music. This paper proposes that this fascinating selection, which includes works by some of the best known composers of the day, was acquired and used by Zelenka for study and performance during a period when he served as acting Kapellmeister between the death of Heinichen in 1729 and the arrival of Hasse in 1734. A partial reconstruction based on a royal catalogue fragment from ca. 1743 will be provided, and further little-known aspects of Zelenka’s life during the interregnum will be discussed."

    Our two papers were followed by Roberto Scoccimarro's detailed analysis of Zelenka's settings of the Marian Antiphons, while Patricia Corbin gave an overview of the musical structure of the Missa Dei Filii, using musical examples to make her point, as well as sharing her experience as a director/performer of the work. I hope that both will publish and share their valuable insights. Here are the abstracts of their papers, as copied from the conference book:

    Roberto Scoccimarro:
    Jan Dismas Zelenka's settings of the Marian Antiphons
    "Between 1724 and 1738 Jan Dismas Zelenka composed nineteen Marian Antiphons. The group of these works covers a long period of the composer's career and unfolds an astonishing variety of technical solutions. The setting of the Regina coeli Z129, composed after 1728, for example, shows two slow choral sections on the whole text, which are followed by a third section in tempo Vivace. On the other side, another setting of the same antiphon, Z129 (composed 1729), is conceived in only one movement in concertato-style. In the later composed Regina coeli Z133, we can observe a first section with a duet for oboes 'concertanti' and at the same time a line in half notes in the style of a cantus firmus. This section appears again after a second one in 3/2 time signature, so that the composer shows the intention to use, among other possibilities, the Da Capo-form. An extraordinary rhythmical richness is shown in the antiphon Alma redemptoris mater Z126, in which the last text line, 'Peccatorum miserere', builds an autonomous section characterized by the use of chromatic writing. Another setting of Alma redemptoris mater, Z127, begins with a fugal exposition for four voices, but continues with two very different sections. On the basis of these examples it is clear that Zelenka searched for individual, ambitious solutions not only in works of vast dimensions, like the last masses, but also in the setting of short texts like the antiphons. The goal of this paper is, after an analysis of the nineteen works, to understand the relation between the text and the musical sections and more generally the meaning of such a wide spectrum of experimentations. Was Zelenka's intention only to show the spread of his compositional skills, or did he want to explore the depth of the liturgical text through an unsuspected variety of musical settings?"

    Patricia Corbin:
    The Missa Dei Filii ZWV 20: An introduction to the late Masses of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
    "During the eighteenth century the Dresden court of August II, Elector of Saxony, better known as 'August the Strong', and his son, August III, was a major cultural center in Europe that attracted some of the finest musicians in Europe. One of those musicians was the Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka. At the turn of the eighteenth century, August II and his son converted to Catholicism for political reasons. Music was needed for the newly established Catholic services and many of the musicians in court were called upon to supply it. Jan Dismas Zelenka was one of those musicians. From 1710 until his death in 1745, Zelenka was employed as a violonist in the court orchestra. While travelling with the Electoral Prince in Vienna and Venice, between 1716-1719, Zelenka had the opportunity to study polyphonic composition with Johann Fux in Vienna, as well as the emerging 'Italian' style. In 1733, opera composer Johann Adolf Hasse, was appointed Dresden Kapellmeister and brought the newer Italian operatic style to Dresden and was enthusiastically received by the court. Zelenka, whose archaic compositional style was falling out of favour, had to incorporate more of this new Italian style into his later compositions. The Missa Dei Filii is one of Zelenka's later works and shows the extreme contrasts of teh archaic stile antico tradition as well as the newer stilo moderno practices. The virtuosic demands on the singers and instrumentalists give insight into the caliber of musicians employed at the Dresden court."

    It was a good day for Zelenka.


  • Thank you, Johannes. You have made a tremendous contribution to Zelenka research, and I for one am eternally grateful to you. I am sure that the others on the forum are too. We look forward to seeing all this in print. Thanks for posting the abstracts here. It makes such a difference to get some "inside" information from you.


  • Friends, here's an update on the musicological front:

    My paper from the Southampton conference on Zelenka's secular collection will be published later this year in the Studi vivaldiani journal, that is, if I manage to finish it before the deadline next month...

    The co-written article "Recent research" by Jan Stockigt and myself is still a work in progress. Earlier this year we spent two weeks in Dresden working on this, but unfortunately I can not say when it will be finished – next year publication, hopefully. I am desperate to get this out of the way and into the open but these things take time. How I wish I could focus on this research full time... but one must earn a living.

    And then there is another co-written article which we have almost finished: This one has to do with a stunning new source that I discovered in the Dresden State Archive at the start of the year. It was one of the many champagne moments I've had in Dresden – and this one gives a surprising new insight into Zelenka the Musician. This source then led us to Bautzen, where we found more information. Jan Stockigt will have the honour of presenting a paper on this find in the Bach Network Dialogue session conference in Warsaw early next month, see:

    Here's her abstract:

    Janice B Stockigt (University of Melbourne)

    A Te Deum performance in Bautzen by members of Dresden’s Hofkapelle: 19 May 1733

    "Soon after the death of August II on 1 February 1733, his son and successor, Elector Friedrich August II, began a tour of homage (Huldigung). Following visits to Leipzig, Wittenberg, and Torgau, he travelled Bautzen in Oberlausitz for the civic reception held there on 19 May. He then entered the cathedral of St Petri where a Te Deum laudamus was performed by an elite group of musicians from the Dresden Hofkapelle, together with trumpets and timpani from the court.

    Who were the twenty-one instrumentalists and nine vocalists who travelled to Bautzen for an event just weeks before Bach submitted his Missa to the new Elector? What was the disposition of the orchestra and singers? And what led to the choice of this special group of performers from within the Hofkapelle?

    This paper provides insights into the high quality of support offered by Crown Prince Friedrich August II in 1731 to the Hofkapelle of his father August II, a patronage that was to bring this ensemble into an even greater prominence throughout Europe when Friedrich August succeeded as Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in 1733."

    Hopefully this can be published early next year. As soon as Jan has given her paper in Warsaw I will inform the Forum about this new source. To this I might add, that during the conference Vaclav Luks and Collegium 1704 will perform three Bach cantatas and Zelenka's Lamentatio I, and the Miserere ZWV 57.

    Our third co-written article is ready for publication next year:
    "Records of Catholic musicians, actors, and dancers at the court of Augustus II, 1723–1732 and the establishment of the Catholic cemetery in Dresden." Built around another fantastic source find, this gives, for example, a wonderful insight into the household of the Catholic musicians, while also discussing the tension between the two religions in Saxony in this period.

    The proceedings of the Pergolesi conference in Dresden in 2010 have just been published and this includes Roberto Scoccimarro's very interesting article: "Ritornellform und Fuge in der Kirchenmusik von Leonardo Leo und Jan Dismas Zelenka." Roberto's forthcoming publication on Leo is eagerly awaited. Jan Stockigt's already considerable work and publications on the Catholic music sources in Dresden is groundbreaking and her article is: "Music by Italian composers listed into Johann Georg Schürer’s «Catalogo Thematico ... 1765» of the Dresden Hofkirche." My article, "Giovanni Alberto Ristori at the Court of Naples 1738–40", is the result of five years of research on this period in the archive. This shows Zelenka's colleague Ristori acting as a composer, teacher and SPY during his time in Naples, and also his daughter's involvement in huge scandal. It's a fascinating story of music, passion, drama and destiny, and I was very fortunate to have stumbled upon this at the time. For the curious, here's the website of the publisher:

    Finally, we should keep our eyes open for the exciting work of three of Jan Stockigt's students. First, Frederic Kiernan will soon present his thesis and critical edition of the 6 Ave Regina coelorum settings from 1737 (ZWV 128). This is an excellent work from Fred, which hopefully will be published in the near future. Second, Andrew Frampton is preparing his thesis on one of Zelenka's masses, and third, Shelley Hogan is working on a huge study of the bass section of the Dresden Hofkapelle, which promises to be a key reference tool for the future.


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