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Bach & Zelenka: Jan Dismas Zelenka: "Te Deum" [ZWV 146] - Collegium 1704/ Luks (20.08.11) (1of2)

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Published on Dec 2, 2011

INTRODUCTION (PART 1 OF 2): JAN DISMAS ZELENKA. "TE DEUM" (ZWV 146):
Collegium 1704, Festival de la Chaise-Dieu and Mezzo continue their extremely succesfull and already legendary collaboration. May that tradition last for many, many years. "Bach & Zelenka" was the title appropriately chosen this year. Recorded on 20.08.2011 in the Abbatiale Saint-Robert, France, during the 45th "Festival de la Chaise-Dieu".

-Jan Dismas Zelenka: "Te Deum" (ZWV 146) for two choirs (1731, NOT 1733)
-Johann Sebastian Bach: "Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!" (BWV 214), from 1733.
(For Bach's BWV 214, see part 2)

Orchestration of ZWV 146 (representative of c.1729-33, when Zelenka was de facto Kapellmeister in Dresden):
SSATB soli (and choir I), SATB (choir II); 4 trumphets; timpani; 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 bassoons; 2 violins; viola; basso continuo.

Occasion: Royal Birth. Celebration of Maria Josepha's delivery in November 1731.
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MUSICAL SUBDIVISIONS, PERFORMERS:

Jan-Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Te Deum in D major for two choirs (ZWV 146, 1731)

1. Te Deum laudamus (Choir)
2. Tu rex gloriae (Soprano I and II)
3. Tu ad liberandum (Alto)
4. Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes (Tenor and Bass)
5. Judex crederis (Choir)
6. Aeterna fac (Choir)
7. Intonatio : Salvum fac
8. Et rege eos (Choir)
9. Per singulos dies (Soprano I, II and Alto)
10. In te, Domine (Choir)

SOLOISTS:
soprano I - Hana Blazikova
soprano II - Dora Pavlikova
alto - Marketa Cukrova, Kamila Mazalova
tenor - Sebastian Monti
bariton - Tomas Kral

Collegium 1704
Václav Luks, Direction

Concert held 20 August 2011 in the Abbatiale Saint-Robert, France.
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THE BACH (BWV 214) & ZELENKA (ZWV 146) -COMPARISON
Firstly, historical circumstances bring ZWV 146 and BWV 214 close to each other. Maria Josepha, Electress of Saxony and the two composers' common Queen, is the person honoured in both works. BWV 214 was performed in Leipzig during her 1733 birthday celebrations. In 1733 Bach also made another attempt to impress the Royal Couple with a Dresden performance of the original version of his b minor Mass. Undoubtedly the intention to impress the Royal Family was also among the reasons why Zelenka invested so much resources in this "Te Deum"- setting. ZWV 146 was performed in the Dresden Court Chapel, either as an act of thanksgiving on the day after Maria Josepha's successful birth of a girl on 5 Nov. 1731, then in the presence of her Husband the Electoral Prince, or during the subsequent churching of the mother on 15 Dec.
Whether the patrons were impressed or not, neither of the two composers obtained the desired post as the Saxon Court's new Kapellmeister. Although these ambitions failed, they must have met during the 1730-33 attempts, when Bach was a frequent guest in Dresden. We find not only circumstancial evidence, but in this case even a direct CONFIRMATION that Johann Sebastian and Jan Dismas knew and admired each other personally, thanks to a letter sent by Bach's son Carl Phillip Emmanuel to J.N. Forkel in 1775.

Secondly, and maybe not surprisingly in the light of what is told above, it seems to be in the music from c.1730 that stylistic similarities (despite clear differences) between Bach & Zelenka are easiest to discover. On the formal level, at least, several constant features can be mentioned which are characteristic to them but not to most other contemporary composers: Both cultivated an atypical interest in renaissance polyphony and thus composers from the past, documented by the libraries and catalogues they left behind. Anacronistic interests in fugues and counterpoint are generally provided by these same sources. Most important, however, is the way in which both internalized this knowledge and used it as a cornerstone in their own highly individual musical structures. Complex instrumental and vocal interactions, as well as between instruments and voices, contribute to create refined, but not always immediately accessible harmonies in the works of both composers. Precisely between 1729 and 1733 this aspect is particularly evident in Zelenka. As de facto Kapellmeister he could experiment ambitiously with the interplay between various musicians now when he had the world-famous Dresden orchestra at his full disposal. The intricate musical languages of both, criticized as old-fashioned by contemporaries, requires some training both for performers (Collegium 1704 is up to it!) and audience. They are not particularly easy on the ear, as opposed to the simplified style that became fashionable then.
Finally, in spite of the obvious musical differences encountered when listening to Bach's & Zelenka's works, they also share something on a deeper level. In common is a sense of profound spiritual understanding of the message in the various texts the music is composed to, a vision that goes far beyond what mere words can express.

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