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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa S. Trinitatis
Zelenka´s last decade of life, during which he composed the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis, was overshadowed not only by the lack ...
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- Author: Zelenka, Jan Dismas
- Catalog number: 157
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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa S. Trinitatis
Zelenka´s last decade of life, during which he composed the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis, was overshadowed not only by the lack of recognition for his work but also by his increasingly weak state of health. The sombre background mood of the work – even the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" is in a minor key – only occasionally lightens. After his death, Zelenka soon fell into obscurity for the most part; his works, however, are almost completely preserved in the Saxon State Library Dresden. Only a few sources are to be found in other places.
|1||Gaude, laetare turba fidelis (aria)||7:31|
|2||Hodie alma illa corruscat dies (recitativo)||0:46|
|4||Kyrie eleison I||1:22|
|6||Kyrie eleison II||2:20|
|7||Gloria in excelsis Deo||5:39|
|8||Qui tollis peccata mundi||2:58|
|9||Quoniam tu solus Sanktus||4:40|
|10||Cum sancto Spiritu I||0:20|
|11||Cum sancto Spiritu II||2:07|
|12||Credo in unum Deum||4:52|
|13||Et incarnatus est||1:59|
|15||Et unam sanctam||1:44|
|16||Et vitam venturi saecu||3:24|
|17||Sanctus, Pleni sunt coeli, Osanna||1:33|
|20||Agnus Dei I||4:22|
|21||Agnus Dei II||0:34|
|22||Dona nobis pacem||2:35|
Jan Dismas Zelenka: "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis" (1736)
Jan Dismas Zelenka was born in 1679 in the Bohemian village of Lounovice pod Blanikem Scarcely anything is known about his youth; at the beginning of the 18th century he was in Prague, where he attended the grammar school at the Jesuit Collegium Clementinum. Around1710 he was engaged as a double bass player at the Court in Dresden. He died 35 years later as "church composer" at this court, on 23rd December 1745. Zelenka did not enjoy much obvious success in his life. Zelenka does not seem to have pushed himself into the limelight at the court of August the Strong and his son, both of whom greatly valued outward glamour and prestige. His late appointment to the post of "church composer" in the year 1735 was the modest peak of Zelenka’s court career.
His last decade of life, during which he composed the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis, was overshadowed not only by the lack of recognition for his work but also by his increasingly weak state of health. The sombre background mood of the work – even the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" is in a minor key – only occasionally lightens. After his death, Zelenka soon fell into obscurity for the most part; his works, however, are almost completely preserved in the Saxon State Library Dresden. Only a few sources are to be found in other places.
Among Zelenka’s twenty or so musical settings for the Ordinary Liturgy, the five late masses stand out. The series begins with the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis", composed in 1736, and ends with the "Missa Omnium Sanctorum" in 1741. The orchestration in the late masses may be on a small scale but the works themselves are wide-ranging and varied in form: great concertante choral movements are interspersed with impressive choral fugues, extended solo arias and solo ensemble movements.
In the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (and also in the other four late masses) Zelenka does not subordinate himself either to the requirements of court prestige or to the restrictions arising from the integration of the mass into the liturgy. The instrumental ensemble is – as in almost all Zelenka’s late works – reduced to chamber music dimensions with two violins and supporting oboes, viola and basso continuo. Solo obbligato instruments such as transverse flutes (in Nr. 2, Christe eleison, and Nr. 6, Quoniam tu solus Sanctus) as well as a chalumeau (in Nr. 17, Agnus Dei I) supplement this ensemble. This instrument, which was occasionally used in the early 18th century, had a simple reed and cylindrical pipe and is considered a forerunner of the clarinet.
In Zelenka’s late masses there is a complete absence of the typical brass instruments: not only is the blaring trumpet ensemble with kettle drums missing, but also the horns that were otherwise very popular in Dresden (corni da caccia). The character of the music is restrained for long stretches, but at the same time (and in contrast to the rather modest-seeming instrumentation) the scale of conception of the mass cycle is extraordinary. One should not be deceived by Bach’s B minor Mass: it does not in any way represent "late Baroque standard", even in its dimensions. Masses of this scope are rare even in the elaborate late Baroque period. Zelenka’s late masses belong to an exclusive species.
The title of the mass should also be mentioned in this context: Missa "Sanctissimae Trinitatis" definitely does not mean that the work can be classified liturgically as being for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. For Zelenka’s handwritten score shows the date "1st November 1736". The Holy Trinity is rather the “dedicatee” of the mass, just as Zelenka wrote a few years later a Missa "Dei Patris", a Missa "Dei Filii" and - as his last mass - a Missa "Omnium Sanctorum", that is, a mass each for "God the Father", "God the Son" and the "Communion of Saints".
In Zelenka’s masses we find again and again clear musical contrasts. But in hardly any other work are they so clearly expressed as in the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis". The intensity of Zelenka’s mass music - and particularly the music of the late masses from the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis" onwards – is clearly indicated. The music no longer functions as a pure mirror or as festive clothing for the given text of the mass, as can perhaps be said about the masses of Palestrina, but as the forceful expression of a dimension both human and humane. Zelenka’s music for the text of the mass seems to say as clearly as possible that it is not only a question of depiction, glorification or adoration of an "object", but also, and more importantly, of the salvation of the subjects. Zelenka’s mass music seems therefore to say: 'tua res agitur', 'it is a matter that concerns you'!
Unlike the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis", the piece "Gaude, laetare" (ZWV 168), consisting of two tenor arias framed by a recitativo secco, actually was created for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. The handwritten score, the only source for the work, is dated 17th May 1731, which was the Thursday after Pentecost; the following Sunday (20th May 1731) was Trinity Sunday. There is no doubt about the attribution of the piece. The recitative includes the lines (translated): "Today is the day on which the name of the highest light is adored and the Trinity is worshipped in One, One in the Trinity".
Zelenka classifies a work such as "Gaude, laetare", which we would call a short sacred "cantata", under the title of "Mottetti" in his largely handwritten inventory of music. As with other Catholic composers of this period (for instance, with Hasse), the difference is that a "cantata" has a secular text in the Italian language, a "mottetto", on the other hand, has a newly-written sacred text in the Latin language. Our piece was documented by Zelenka with the added note "de SS: Trinitate". The beginning of the text was erroneously written as "Gaude Plaude", but the key and instrumentation leave no doubt as to which piece was meant.
It is not immediately obvious how such "Mottetti" were connected to the Liturgy. The following notes from the "Diarium" of the Dresden Jesuits (a continuous chronicle of notable religious events at the Court in Dresden) are helpful. This source has nothing to say about Trinity Sunday 1731, but does have a note to the effect that Zelenka led the music four days later on Corpus Christi, which will also have been the case for Trinity Sunday. In the Diarium on the other hand there is a clear note for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, 8th June 1732: "Vesperae hora 3. musicam produxit D. Zelenka (...) post Vespe¬ras (...) cantulus in choro, et benedictio", "The Vesper took place at 3 o’clock; Mr. Zelenka led the music (...) after the Vesper a short sung piece was performed in the choir of the church, after which the blessing was given". That "in choro" does not mean "with choral singing" but indeed means the choir of a church can be seen from the entry for 31st May 1732: "Reparaverunt in choro musicorum scamna", "In the choir the musicians’ benches have been repaired". Finally we read about the Feast of the Holy Trinity 1728 (23rd May): "Musicam produxit D. Zelenka (...) hora quarta concionem dixit R. P. Wolff. Post hanc motetta cantata in choro cum instru¬mentis et tandem benedictio", "Mr. Zelenka conducted the music (...) at four o’clock the Most Reverend Father Wolff held the sermon. After this a 'motetta' [according to Zelenka’s terminology: a "mottetto"!] with instruments was sung in the choir and finally the blessing".
From these quotations it seems that the "Motetto" with the text "Gaude, laetare" was very probably heard for the first time after the Vesper, perhaps even a sermon, on the afternoon of the Feast of the Holy Trinity in 1731. Afterwards the blessing was given. The almost opera-like production of the piece could have made the Jesuit chroniclers call a similar piece on Trinity Sunday 1732 rather pejoratively a "cantulus" or "little sung piece".
The arias "Gaude, laetare" and "Alleluja" show Zelenka’s increasingly "galant" style of composing in the years after 1730; the syncopated rhythms in the "Alleluia" stand out particularly. Something similar can indeed already be found in the work of Zelenka’s colleague Heinichen, who died in 1729; the influence of Johann Adolf Hasse, who only later came to Dresden, can be ruled out. On the other hand, there is a clear sign of Zelenka’s previous preference for changing rhythms in the striking mixture of duplets and triplets in instruments and voice in the introductory aria. While the music of the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis" has a particularly serious nature on the whole, we hear in his Trinitatis motetto "Gaude, laetare" another side of Zelenka, cheerful and lighthearted, which, it must be admitted, is not typical of his work as a whole.