Second year of Zelenka Festival Prague, 13-16 October 2015

  • As a follow up on Alistair Kidd’s announcement of the Zelenka Festival Prague 2015, I am hoping that the many readers of the Forum will join us for what promises to be a great time in the Czech capital. The programme looks very exciting and indeed, there is a nice surprise in store for those who will attend. It will also be interesting to see what the speakers at the conference will reveal, following their research on all things Zelenka.

    With your support, this festival has the chance to grow into something truly special. So see you there!

  • *********************
    My ramshackle translation of the press-reveal was slightly off - see djdresden's 23/10/2105 posts, found in this thread, describing the festival & conference

    'unknown' should have been 'unheard'; the '3 weeks' was reported incorrectly.

    I apologise for stirring up the extra-excitement!! ;) :o

    OK - I think the main surprise has been revealed!
    This sounds SUPER-exciting!:…daneho-za-ztracene/?pa=1f

    Adam Viktora:

    " case this wasn't enough, we've prepared a stunt in the form of a few world premieres of pieces by Zelenka [previously] totally unknown [EDIT: unheard], and even of one which, up till 3 weeks ago, was considered lost. At which concerts these will occur, we have left for our visitors as a surprise."


    Sebastian {definitely wishing that he could have come along...}

  • It's tempting to speculate!!

    A significant 'lost' work could also be:

    - 'Via Laureta' School play of 1704, Zelenka's earliest known piece (the text exists) which is Collegium 1704's namesake.
    - A concerto? Zelenka's comment found with these might suggest that we don't have all of the ones he wrote 'in haste' in Prague 1723.
    - ZWV5 Missa Spei, the only one out of the '21 Masses' unnacounted for. (But there is also the intriguing Missa Theophorica à 2 Cori which he clearly lists in his Inventarium as his own)
    - The last remaining Magnificat, ZWV106? In the Inventarium it's listed as 'à 5' (2 Sopranos) in A minor

    Then there's the many many other 'missing' possibilities, especially Psalm settings (would be nice to have the Vespers cycles more complete), Marian antiphons, hymns and motets.

    Only time will tell! (And I guess, not too long at all)


  • Fellow Zelenkians: finally here’s my report of the Festival that was held in Prague last week. Please accept my sincere apologies for not having posted earlier and having kept you waiting for further news. After my return to Iceland earlier this week, and the workload that did await me, today is the first opportunity I have to write up what took place.

    Since this website does not allow for posts over 10000 characters, my report is in two parts, first the concerts and later the conference.

    The first concert saw the fine Italian countertenor Filippo Mineccia sing the motets Solicitus fossor and Barbara dira effera. The highlight for me was the modern premiere of Zelenka’s secular motet Qui nihil sortis, which Mineccia sang with Gabrieal Eibenová. Once again Zelenka took me by complete surprise – the motet was a pure opera duet, and an absolutely brilliant one, with concertante solo parts for oboe, bassoon and cello. It is one of the most pleasant Zelenka works in his canon, and urgently calls for a recording.

    In the second evening Ensemble Inégal played with modern instruments. This might bother some but not me – when I arrived at the concert I had completely forgotten they intended to this and frankly I did not notice until the second part of the concert because the music was so well played. As in the previous night the orchestra was in excellent form and they had the phenomenal horn player Radek Baborák playing the most difficult horn parts. He did well.

    The highlight this evening was the first performance in modern times of three works: two Ave Regina settings from 1737, ZWV 128, nr. 5 and 6, both in the edition of the Australian Zelenka scholar Fred Kiernan, who is the student of Janice Stockigt. The first setting was a short choral piece, but the second, with three soloists and choir was truly brilliant, and resembled some of the music and thematic material used in the vocal trios of the late masses.

    The third vocal work was the one which had been announced as the newly discovered piece. There was a misunderstanding in Adam Viktora’s interview which had been cited here in the Forum: he said that it had been found only three weeks ago but this is not correct. While doing research in the Dresden library (SLUB) in 2013, I ordered a piece of music which in the card catalogue had been attributed to another composer, because I found the name and this attribution to be somewhat dubious. And indeed, inside the envelope I received were unknown materials in the hand of Zelenka and some of his copyists. I instantly suspected that I had found at least one of the missing Zelenka hymns. A few months later, Jan Stockigt confirmed my suspicions on our visit to the library. The hymn, Iste Confessor ZWV 236, was then edited for performance by Fred Kiernan. Hearing this little hymn was a nice moment for the three of us. I do not wish to go into further details, because Jan Stockigt has written an article about this discovery, and this will be published soon. I ask for your understanding and patience. But the great story is, that there is still hope in finding unknown, or missing works of our composer.

    The last night of the Festival saw Ensemble Marsyas perform three of Zelenka’s Trio Sonatas. This was an elegant reading of these ever fascinating works. I especially liked the tempi – the music did breath in a very natural way. This was a fitting end to four days devoted to our composer. All this was made possible by Adam and Gabriela. Their devotion to Zelenka is admirable. And this is just the start. Make sure to book your tickets in advance for next year.

  • The conference was held on Thursday. It was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Wolfgang Reich, who passed away in the summer. Before the papers were given, Jan Stockigt and Wolfgang Horn spoke about their friendship with Dr. Reich.

    In my paper I gave some of the worst examples of the commonly held view, i.e. the myth that surrounds Zelenka, namely that he was a miserable low life creature at the court of Dresden. It is quite easy to dismiss the things that have been written about his personality, because there are no contemporary sources to back up all the bullshit (pardon my expression!). It was somewhat typical that the day before I gave my paper, I received a google-alert about a short piece in the New York Times on Zelenka, who was described as being an unhappy and unpleasant guy... Ah, OK! Anyway, those who have read some of my posts in the Forum know my strong feelings on this issue. My point is, we can all speculate till kingdom come about what kind of a person he was, but this should be kept out of professional discussion. But old habits die hard, and in the general discussion at the end of the conference, one attendee said that because Zelenka’s late music was so „melancholic", he must have had a „dark side to him”. How can one respond to such personal perceptions in a scholarly debate? Ah.. erm… is it possible that he had „a bright side to him?!” We simply do not know, and this kind of talk will get us nowhere – all it has done is to damage to the reputation of Zelenka’s personality. The purpose of my paper was really to address this situation, and the reaction I received afterwards from some of the Czech’s in attendence was both heartfelt and touching. They are (at least some of them) truly grateful that someone is now finally speaking up for their composer.

    I discussed at length the circumstances leading up to Zelenka’s petitions for the post of the Kapellmeister. I presented a document from 1728 which shows the high regard Heinichen held Zelenka. I gave examples of Zelenka's co-working relationship with Hasse in the 1730s, and I argued that the 8 Italian arias of 1733 were composed as gratuation pieces for the young Italian operas singers that arrived in Dresden in 1730 and also the Bohemian bass singer Rietzschel (see also my article on Zelenka’s Secular Vocal Collection in Studi vivaldiani, 2013). These were all students of Zelenka. Finally, I discussed his activities in the 1740s and his role in compiling one of the key royal catalogues post-1743, and the reaction to his death in 1745. My conclusion is that Zelenka was highly regarded at the court of Dresden, and this can now be backed up by several new sources.

    Jan Stockigt gave an important talk on the same notes as in Southampton in 2012 (see the relevant thread) and backed up my conclusions. She also discussed the Vesper psalms cycles of the 1720s, the first of which Adam Viktora and Ensemle Inegale has just finished recording for the next release on Nibiru. Jan is of that opinion that the great quality of these works has until now been generally overlooked by orchestras and in the literature (except in her own writings – she has long campaigned for the performance of these psalms), compared to the great works of the 1730s and 40s. The new CD should be out before Christmas.

    Wolfgang Horn, one of the great scholars on the music of the Dresden church and a true pioneer when it comes to the study of this music, spoke about the rich diversity of the arias found in Zelenka’s music and especially their relationship to the music of Hasse. Having Horn back at the Zelenka research table is one of the great things that came out of the Festival in my opinion, and Adam Viktora should be thanked especially for this. Horn has much to give, he is extremely passionate about the music of Dresden from this period, and his understanding of the musical sources is second to none. After one the concerts I had the pleasure of hearing his extraordinary account of how he, as a young student in West Germany, went about to aquire microfilm copies of music from the Dresden libary, which then was of course in East Germany, at the hight of the Cold War. Through his hard work and great determination Horn was then able to publish one of the key books on the repertory of the Dresden Catholic court church in 1720-1745. I must add, that I do not agree with his opinion on Zelenka’s personality/status at the Dresden court – but I hope that now he has seen and heard of some of the new sources he might reconsider and reassess his earlier held views.

    Claudia Lubkoll from the SLUB in Dresden spoke about the watermarks found in the autographs of Zelenka’s sacred music. This was an interesting paper which, for example, showed the various paper types used by Zelenka in one and the same work, revealing the different compositional layers. It is to be hoped that she will now incorporate the secular music into her findings, and then we have an invaluable tool for the research of Zelenka’s music, when it comes to dating some of the more problematic works, for example the Trio Sonatas.

    Michaela Freemanová discussed the incerts of two of Zelenka’s motets, Solicitus fossor and Barbara dira effera, into Leonardo Leo’s oratorio Sant Elena al Calvario, which was performed in the Clementinum College in Prague in 1734. This was an important paper based on Freemanová’s co-written article with Jan Stockigt about this topic, which has just been published by Hudebni veda, the Czech musicology journal.

    Karel Veverka spoke about the musical patronage of Jan Hubert Hartig, the former teacher and employer of Zelenka in Prague. It is well known that this Hartig was considered to be a great musician, who corresponded with many of the great Italian composers. He had an extensive and a famous musical library, which Zelenka had access to. Veverka has published an article on Hartig, which I think appears in the same issue of Hudebni veda, see above.

    Jana Vojtěšková from the National Museum – Czech Museum of Music, gave a great paper which listed for example all the known Zelenka scores now kept in the Prague libraries and archives. She also discussed the revival of Zelenka’s music in Prague in the 19th century and argued that it was not Smetana who was responsible for the famous performance of one of Zelenka’s works in 1863, but rather, that he was acting on the wishes of other Czech’s, when he travelled to Dresden to aquire copies of Zelenka’s works from the then royal library. It is to be hoped we will hear more from Jana, whose knowledge of the sources in the Czech lands is unsurpassed. She presented a nice little new Zelenka document – a little slip of paper with Zelenka’s autograph and the date 7 January 1726, which is kept in a autograph collection in Prague.

    The best paper was saved for last. Fred Kiernan gave a truly masterful presentation of his current research into the reception of Zelenka’s music in the 19th century. In short, he has found countless previously unknown 19th century manuscript copies of Zelenka’s works in libraries all over Europe and the US. What this tells us is, that already very early in that century, some of the great collectors of that time were actively trying to aquire the music of Zelenka, and that it was widely performed by some of the key musical societies that were dedicated to the music of the earlier times. It also tells us that the Zelenka’s music was really never forgotten as is generally believed – it was always being collected, performed and studied, all the way from his death and until our times. Fred has just begun to dip into a world which is still being discovered: this is the topic of his doctoral thesis and is due for completion in 2017.

    The precedings of the conference will be published. Further information will be given here when things become clear. But I have to say that we were all surpised by the great attendence to the conference. People came from all over the world, some even at very short notice, like Maria from Moscow, a Zelenka lover and choral director, who has performed his music in the Russian capital, and is currently working on a study of the masses. She flew in for only one day!! Wow. That is a true commitment to the cause. It was fantastic to meet such passionate lovers of Zelenka’s music, and we had many reasons to toast the old Bohemian afterwards.

  • But the great story is, that there is still hope in finding unknown, or missing works of our composer.

    ... And this is just the start. Make sure to book your tickets in advance for next year.

    It was so great to hear all this, thank-you, thank-you :D

    It seems that the festival has totally met its goal to open up more interest and inquiry. The next pages for the book of Zelenka are there to be filled, and there is much scope & hope for the future.

    Sebastian :cool:

  • For the fantastically comprehensive write-up of last week's events we are truly indebted - thanks so much djdresden!! It's great to hear that Zelenka research is making leaps and bounds thanks to a truly international effort, no less. Specifically, it is nice to hear that you are tackling the "miserable old bastard" myth head-on. While I never really believed it because I know his music so well (how could a miserable old bastard compose such music?!) I am still at two minds as to whether the myth helps or hinders an increasing (public) awareness of Zelenka's work. Afterall, everyone loves an underdog and since we don't have his mugshot and we know not so many personal details about him, I think it is quite important for modern audiences to have some kind of human link to him. So, the myth that he was bitter about being repeatedly shafted by his superiors propagates extremely easily and captivates people much more than a simple "we know s0d all about him but he wrote brilliant music". That is why the work you are doing to uncover the real conditions and environment (which I guess we assume, since he was in Dresden for so long, shaped his personality in a major way) is so so important. I hope that some key online sources of information (where concert planners get ideas for their programme notes) will be updated. For example, how about a short section entitled "Myths about Zelenka" on the Wikipedia page (which anyway seems to include some factual errors e.g. the replacement of Zelenka by Bach as church composer!!!) along with a summary of the latest research findings which you have mentioned?

    It is also fascinating to hear about the 19th century interest in Zelenka. Nevertheless, one can muse on why a large-scale Zelenka revival like the Bach-revival did not occur. As a keyboard player (see my other thread on my Zelenka keyboard project) I think the complete lack of Zelenka keyboard music probably can account to a certain extent for the only smaller-scale interest. On this point I am curious if researchers have found any 19th century keyboard transcriptions of Zelenka's work?

    Thank's again for your inspiring write-up (also of the 3 concerts which sounded awesome - I've just bashed through that duet "Qui nihil sortis" from the autograph and it is indeed a gem and long overdue a recording!)


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