Makoto Sakurada, Václav Čížek – tenor
housle: Peter Zajíček, Martin Kalista, Eleonora Machová, Kateřina Maixnerová, Magdalena Malá,
soprán - Yvetta Fendrychová, Alena Hellerová, Stanislava Mihalcová, Barbora Sojková, Renata Zafková
Jan Dismas Zelenka se narodil roku 1679 ve vsi Louňovice pod Blaníkem v Čechách. O jeho mládí nevíme téměř nic; až na počátku 18. století se dá nalézt jeho stopa v Praze, kde studoval na jezuitské koleji Collegium Clementinum. Roku 1710 byl přijat jako kontrabasista k drážďanskému dvoru, kde pak působil 35 let a jako „církevní skladatel“ (Kirchen-Compositeur) zemřel 23. prosince 1745. Na zjevné úspěchy byl Zelenkův život chudý. U dvora Augusta Silného a jeho syna, kteří kladli velký důraz na vnější lesk a reprezentaci, se patrně netlačil do popředí. Jeho jmenování „Kirchen-Compositeur“ roku 1735 bylo nejspíš vrcholem Zelenkovy kariéry.
Poslední desetiletí skladatelova života zatemňoval nejen nedostatek náležitého uznání, stupňovaly se také zdravotní potíže; v tomto období vznikla jeho Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (Mše k poctě Nejsvětější Trojice). Chmurná nálada díla – dokonce i část „Gloria in excelsis Deo“ je v mollové tónině – se jen málokdy rozjasní. Po své smrti upadl Zelenka brzy v zapomenutí. Jeho díla jsou však téměř kompletně zachována v Saské zemské knihovně, jen málo pramenů se nachází jinde.
ZELENKA Gaude laetare ZWV 168. Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis ZWV 17
Jan Dismas Zelenka needs no real introduction, given that he has rapidly risen in the public view from an obscure Bohemian standing in the shadow of Johann Sebastian Bach to becoming recognized as one of the most prolific and original composers of the early 18th century. His positions in both Prague and Dresden brought him into musical cultures that were vibrant and progressive, and his music reflects his close association with singers and instrumentalists who were at the top of their game. No wonder Bach, in his eternal job search to get him out of Leipzig, could get no traction in Dresden, even with such a work as the B-Minor Mass as his calling card.
Of the two pieces on this disc, the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis has been recorded before on Matous Authentic with Musica Florea, and a couple of movements on a 1999 Czech Baroque Masters compendium by the same company, but one immediately sees why undertaking this project might be daunting. Composed in 1736 as one of his last Masses, he probably never heard it performed, although it certainly conformed to the huge festive pieces that were not uncommon in large churches or courts of the time. Unusually enough, it is apparently not written for the Feast of the Holy Trinity as the title might suggest, but was rather dedicated to the church holiday. On the other hand, the short motet Gaude laetare was, which makes the pairing on this disc somewhat ironic. The Mass itself is a monster, a true cantata Mass with each of the five sections subdivided into often substantial movements of their own. Into each Zelenka seems to have poured his inspiration, creating a work that is powerful, monumental, and memorable. The opening first Kyrie has insistent dotted rhythms, which lend it a sort of French feel, but the crisp Lombardic snaps of the Christe, an alto aria with a humungous instrumental introduction, immediately catapults one into the emerging galant style. The Gloria opens with a spare and almost sinister unison in the strings, which is echoed in the chorus before the two separate into separate paths. The choral portions, outlined by the racing strings and insistent bass, have a slight Spanish tinge, and the entire style seems like a mixture of Vivaldi and Handel; the headlong tempos and string figuration of the former with the grandeur of the latter. The same drive appears in the Quoniam, where soprano Gabriela Elinová negotiates some really daring coloratura in a clear and precise voice, acting as a foil for the recorder. What is remarkable here, however, is the rapid-fire parlando fugal statement, pointed and syllabic, which is developed along the lines of Vivaldi’s sacred works, though the episodes often have contrasting suspensions that move up and down smoothly. In the Sanctus, the Pleni sunt coeli seems almost as if Telemann could have written it, with tremolo strings and a trumpet-like ascending triadic exposition. In the opening Agnus Dei, the tenor and bass solos weave an intricate lyrical dance with their instrumental counterparts, an oboe and a soft chalumeau, while this in turn dissolves into a brief choral exposition with some rather interesting and often progressive harmony. And it concludes, as expected, with a gnarly double fugue with a theme that positively meanders.
The small motet, two arias flanking a brief recitative, is equally impressive. It is highly operatic, with perpetual motion triplets in the violins and a coloratura for the solo tenor that seems to run through every possible rhythmic and ornamental permutation in the book. For the singer, it seems a particularly nasty piece, calculated to test the vocal ability to its utmost and requiring an astonishing degree of focus and precision.
The performance on this disc is energetic and captivating. Tenor Makoto Sakurada handles the tortuous coloratura in the motet with seeming ease, with an excellent sense of intonation and control as the figuration threatens to spin out of control. In the Mass, countertenor Carlos Mena blends nicely with the accompanying flute and develops Zelenka’s often continuous phrase structure in a way that makes complete sense of the piece. His voice is clear and equally precise, as is that of soprano Elinová, who manages to corral the rushing strings in the Quoniam, but offers a lovely lyrical respite in the flowing Benedictus, partnering the soft flutes with ease. The Intégral Ensemble is a model of precision and power, and conductor Adam Viktora keeps his forces energetic and forceful. The chorus consisting of the Prague Baroque Soloists is full-voiced and has excellent depth, and yet manages the gnarly counterpoint and domineering homophony with equal ease. This is one disc that in my opinion ought to be one of the cornerstones of a Zelenka collection, demonstrating once again his right to be considered as one of the most important figures in late Baroque music.
Bertil van Boer
© Studio Svengali, říjen 2022
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