When Frederick Augustus the Elector of Saxony known as Augustus the Strong, whose love of the arts and music made Dresden a beacon of the arts in the early 18th century died on February 1st 1733 an entire year of protocols and grand ceremonial occasions were organised by the state to mourn his passing. The exigencies of religous politics in his domains meant that these had to encompass and satisfy the religious sensibilities of both his Catholic and protestant subjects. Zelenka who had been acting as Kapellmeister at the Dresden court following Heinichen‘s death in 1729 was responsible for writing both the Officium defunctorium (Office of the Dead) and the Requiem as part of the Catholic ceremonies. This week’s ‘Sunday Concert’ which covers the Officium defunctorium is the first of two in which I deal with Zelenka’s Officium defunctorium and his Requiem.
Zelenka’s setting of the Officium defunctorium is very substantial piece of work that repays listening to several times. It’s an extended piece of funereal theatre and it opens with a truly spectacular Invitatorium, whose darkly dramatic progressions and suspensions create wonderfully gritty rythmic that textures that give way by and by to a lyrical Psalmus. This is music on a grand scale it’s on the scale you’d expect from on of Bach’s Passion’s and it’s just as impressive. The work’s main body is divided into divided into three Nocturni, each of which is further divided into three Lessons and three Responses these are remarkably intense pieces of music that are characterised by beautifully eloquent and moving vocal solos and floating choral textures that Zelenka married to a richly harmonical contrapunctal orchestral accompaniment of strings, winds, organ, and theorbo continuo. This particular performance is by the superb Collegium 1704 who under their conductor Václav Luks have done such sterling work in bringing Zelenka’s music to a wider public, it dates from 2009 and was broadcast by the Mezzo channel. Enjoy :-).
Video Source: Jan Dimas Zelenka: Officium Defunctorum | Collegium 1704 – YouTube Published on 17 Oct 2012 by Simon Birch
- Collegium 1704 Conducted by Václav Luks
- Katerina Knezikova: soprano
- Mariana Rewerski: mezzosoprano
- Marketa Cukrova: alto
- Jaroslav Brezina: tenor
- Tobias Berndt: bass
- Tomas Kral: bass
- Directed by Louise Narboni © Broadcast by Mezzo, 2009