Outstanding CDs: Missa Dei Patris, ZWV 19

  • The excitement of their wonderful discovery shines through in the insprired 1988 performance. For example, the Gloria in track 4 is thrilling; the Crucifixus fugue in track 12 is heart-rending. As a non-conformist Protestant, I was desperate for Masses by Zelenka to be available back in 1988. Virtuosi Saxoniae's effort should be acknowledged as a major landmark.
    That said, if you were comparing details of the two performances, there are many points to make. For example, the contrast between the two Alto soloists is very marked and the pace of track 6 by Daniel Taylor (1998 performance) suits my ear.

  • That's what I thought, Andrew. Both of them are outstanding, but I really don't want to put them both onto the "Outstanding CDs" page. It kind of defeats the purpose if too many CDs land there...

    I hope we get other opinions on this. Is the Virtuosi Saxoniae recording on original instruments, by the way?

    Best wishes,


  • Both recordings are completely professional and satisfying. The Virtuosi Saxoniae perform on modern instruments (they are the principals from the Dresden Staatskapelle), but are stylistically sensitive.
    My strong preference is for period instruments in this repertoire, so personally my vote would go to the Bernius.

    Having said that, though, the Güttler recording gave me years of enjoyment until Bernius' recording came along. (The end of the Credo is just thrilling for example.) Some of Bernius' tempos might be considered on the extreme side. But he probably has the better team of soloists on the whole (Daniel Taylor is amazing in the sublime Agnus Dei aria).

    In the end this probably comes down to whether or not you prefer period instruments.

  • Most people would prefer period instruments in recordings these days, don't you think? However, another consideration is that the earlier recording has the Dresden Lukaskirche accoustics, and very few European recording venues can match it! I think the Bernius recording should win, though, by a hair's breadth.
    Aprilia Pegaso 650

  • Many thanks for your viewpoints on these two CDs.

    As it turns out, there have been at least three recordings. The one by Virtuosi Saxoniae, now on Berlin Classics, was not the first.

    Carus brought out an LP with ZWV 19 in the 1980s (recorded 1981), conducted by Wolfram Wehnert (with the Marburger Bach Choir and Hessisches Collegium. As with their recording of Missa Votiva (ZWV 18) on Thorofon, this was probably on modern instruments.

    Any comments on this one? Has anyone heard it?

  • I would like to suggest an exception to your sensible general rule of having not too many "Outstanding CD's". I have been reading an excellent article by Stanley Sadie (Grove Editor) about "The idea of Authenticity". He says that many people comment that "Early music" styles of today are not historically based but a reaction against Romantic expressive excess - a move towards emotional austerity, with its pared-down sound and clean, sharply-focused textures. Elsewhere he says that we may never hear music "as it really was". Go for original instruments etc. but let us not delude ourselves about authenticity and the extent to which we are attaining it.
    With this in mind and the knowledge that the singers of the Thuringisher Akademicher Singkreis are using "original instruments", please consider having joint outstanding recordings just once!
    Andrew Hinds

  • Hi Andrew,

    You win. I'll put the Berlin Classics one on the "Outstanding CDs" page too.

    I do think the Wehnert LP deserves a listen, if anyone else has it. As a debut recording (with not-so-original instruments, and original voices), it is magnificent. The recording (on Carus) is holographic in places, if you have good equipment (despite the "vinyl roar" between tracks). I think it is analogue. Does anyone have contact with Carus? I would love them to reissue it on CD, or to make it available via the DZ website. As the Bernius recording is also issued by Carus, I suspect that the former possibility is a pipe-dream.

    Best regards as always,


  • Hi again,

    Here is something another member of the forum sent me (with permission to enter it in the forum). That person may post afterward to admit authorship, or may choose not to! It is an interesting comparison, though! Subjective, of course, but why can't we be allowed to be subjective in the forum?

    Not everyone will have heard the Wehnert version issued on LP only, but bear in mind that it was the début recording on modern instruments (rather like his version of Missa Votiva, which still hasn't had a second CD recording).

    This is what our forum member had to say about the 3 versions of Missa Dei Patris (ZWV 19):

    "I listened to the 3 performances of ZWV 19 by Bernius 1998, Güttler 1988
    and Wehnert 1981 (B, G & W). I listened W first, then I made a comparison.
    This comparison was interesting, and certainly unprecise and unfair. I'm not a musician.

    Although my taste varies with weather and time, I found good and bad in each. Here are my thoughts :

    B: most of the time correct, sometimes too fast (but less nervous than Rademann).
    G: most of the time correct.
    W: Too slow in Kyrie, Crucifixus, Sanctus, Agnus Dei I, Dona nobis. *
    Correct in Kyrie II, Qui sedes, Cum Sancto.
    Better in the Benedictus than B and G.

    * It reminds me of the Requiem ZWV 45 by Dähler, that I don't like any more.
    (ZWV 45 is hardly from Zelenka; I cannot find anything typical, unlike in ZWV 48.

    B: With period instruments (bright strings) most details can be heard, although the woodwinds are too discreet. Sharp, lack of roundness. Good stereo.
    G: halfway between B & W. Less good stereo.
    W: The sound is too polished, muffled (perhaps the recording technique).
    The instruments are well placed and discernable and the woodwinds have good colors (sometimes added to the score).

    In Zelenka the expression (harmony, rhythm) is dispatched in the polyphony with great fluidity.
    It requires a great musical style, the notes cannot be played as is, like in Bach.
    B: adequate 'baroque style', great use of staccato, forte, dynamics; sometimes too brutal. Great polyphonic expression and dissonances.
    G: halfway between B & W. More delicate than B.
    W: Precise, very well played but sluggish attacks, lack of dynamics, of baroque expression.
    (Viola (?) plays a false note in Sanctus)

    B: Voices with character, very audible, but not nice in some slow mvts.
    G: Better sound in slow chorus.
    W: Sop/Alt not audible in some chorus. Poor solo Basso in Benedictus. Too much vibrato, and sad feeling in solo voices, except good Alto in Agnus Dei I. Not vigorous enough.

    Here are my favorite pieces :
    1 Kyrie B
    2 B
    3 G
    4 Gloria B
    5 G
    6 B
    7 Qui sedes B
    8 Quoniam W
    9 B
    10 Credo B
    11 B
    12 B/G
    13 Et Resurrexit G, B for adagio to end
    14 G
    15 Sanctus G
    16 G
    17 B
    18 Agnus Dei I W (B better instruments)
    19 G
    20 B

    I did a mix of this puzzle. The constrast when going from one conductor to another one is striking and reveals the mixed style and rich personality of Zelenka.

    In conclusion : my favorite B, then G, then W.
    Wehnert is of good quality most of the time but in the comparison it doesn't reveal enough of the style of this music."

  • Hi Alistair,

    Im impressed by your detailed analysis. Interesting read.

    I only have heard the G and W.
    I prefer the Güttler version. I like the intensity of the preformance. Good dynamics. Full of energy. Good musicians.

    The only thing I like better in the Wehnert preformance is you can better hear the woodwind. There are details in the oboes I cant hear in the G version.

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