Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Eeesh | US | 11/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Its really sad how small the classical canon has grown, and even more so how few people listen to classical music at all. The composer Jan Dismas Zelenka is one of the many neglected masters of the late Baroque, and these Lamentations are certainly among his chief works. Their style is difficult for modern listeners to place, lying somewhere between the Baroque and the Rococo but with a hint of Renaissance humanism just out of reach. In fact, I believe they were written just a year or so after Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (1721), but Bach himself was very old-fashioned. This recording is infused with a kind of scholarly pathos and is very likely the top contender for performances of this work. If you like this kind of stuff I suggest you check out some of Zelenka's instrumental works (try ASIN: B0000034ZD Composizione per Orchestra performed by Collegium 1704), the St. Matthew Passion by Bach (1727, ASIN: B000002S0T under Klemperer with Schwarzkopf), and Pergolesi's gorgeous Stabat Mater (1736 ASIN: B000001G5Q). For a little more of a reach, try the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis from the mid 17th century. Happy Listening!"
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 01/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"JEREMIAH LAMENTS-SKILLED SINGERS PRESENT-ZELENKA'S CONTENT
If Handel and Bach are the first two members of the Baroque Musical Trinity, then Jan Dismas Zelenka must be the third, for his music is fast coming to the fore, and more and more recordings of it are being made.
Jan Zelenka (1679-1745) studied with Fux in Vienna(1715) and Lotti in Venice(1717), returning to Dresden in 1719, where in 1735 he acquired the post of 'church composer'.
Zelenka's highly individualitic idiom no doubt militated against general favor, although he was clearly admired by discerning contemporaries. The bulk of his output was religious music, including three oratorios, a sacred opera about St. Wenceslas and twelve masses,as well as many smaller works.
Zelenka's music sounds somewhat like J.S.Bach, but it is different enough from Bach's structure and instrumentation. However,like Bach, he valued counterpoint, fugal technique and careful craftsmenship, besides its sonorous color which is shown by the use of obligato wind instruments and a complex chromatic harmony.
The typrical 'Zelenkaisms' are: frequent alternation between immediately adjoining major and minor in the same chord, chromatic and contrasts such as orchestra unison as well as vocal unison, sequence of quickly moving descending scales ending in unexpected harmonies. These characteristics are carefully balanced and integrated into a translucent bar structure of heavy Italian influence(think of Scarlatti or Lotti), even though the specific personal elements are in no way reduced.
In the Christian Religion there is a Service called 'Tenebrae' celebrated by the Western Church. It takes place on the evening before Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, which are the last three days of Holy Week. Many composers through the years have composed music for the Liturgy of this service which is from 'The Lamentations of Jeremiah'. A few of these who have written musical settings are Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Francois Couperin and of course Zelenka.
These 'Lamentations of Jeremiah' are beautifully conceived by Zelenka who seems to have a knack for providing wonderful melodies imbued with mysticism and at the same time a sense of anticipation, for both chorus and orchestra. Each lamentation is about twenty-four minutes long and is split into two parts that contain some crafty and intelligent writing.
The three soloists are quite superb in their portrayals of Christ's Passion.
Having said all of this I need to mention the skill involved in performing these Lamentations. The three excellent soloists are: Michael Chance (countertenor) who sings: Lamentations II for Maunday Thursday and Easter Eve. His voice is warm, almost hypnotic and a pure joy hear. Michael George (bass) sings Lamentations I for Maunday Thursday and Lamentations II for Good Friday. His voice is deeply sonorous, but without a 'rumbling' quality that often muddies up the clarity of the words; a listening pleasure. John Mark Ainsley (tenor) sings Lamentation I for Good Friday and Easter Eve. He sings precisely with clear diction and an intense tone quality that is very pleasing to the ear. They each have lengthy solo passages and perform them within a proper emotional framework.
'These soloists are on their accustomed strong form, shading the music with sensitivity and evenness of tone. But the warmly colored and gently inflected support provided by the Chandos Baroque Players deserves equal praise'.
The recording comes with excellent liner notes and a complete text."
The Bohemian Bach
M. De Sapio | Alexandria, VA | 01/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We have been conditioned to think of Bach's style as peculiar to him, or a direct outgrowth of the Lutheran tradition. Just ten minutes' acquaintance with the music of Jan Zelenka (1679-1745) will shatter this notion. Zelenka (accent on the first syllable) was a Bohemian-German Catholic composer working within the traditions of Latin liturgical music whose works are very Bach-like in their depth and originality. While Zelenka is not yet widely known to the general public, I believe that his time will come soon. Fellow Bohemian Biber has seen a huge revival in recent years, and it is surely only a matter of time before Zelenka will be recognized for what he is - one of the major figures of the high baroque.
Zelenka's setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, written in 1722, is cast as a set of cantatas (comprising arias, recitatives, and arioso) for solo voice and orchestra. Written for Holy Week, they pass from anguish to warmth and childlike hopefulness in the final two major-key Lamentations for Easter Eve. The performances of Michael George, Michael Chance, John Mark Ainsley, and the Chandos Baroque Players have a radiant, mystical aura about them; they are flawless and lovingly rendered. One thing about these pieces that I found surprising and touching: Zelenka gives some of the most florid music, not to the text of the Lamentations itself (which is set largely in recitative and arioso) but to the Hebrew letters at the head of each stanza. An analogy with the florid initials of illuminated manuscripts, perhaps?
Zelenka's music demands to be heard, and this budget-priced disc is the ideal means of discovering this great composer.
Caveat emptor: This CD is also available, with identical cover art, at full price. Don't be fooled!"