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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa Sancti Josephi
The "Missa Sancti Josephi" (Zelenka-Werkverzeichnis/ZWV 14) has only been passed on in Zelenka’s autograph score, which is badly damaged but ...
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- Author: Zelenka, Jan Dismas
- Catalog number: 153
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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa Sancti Josephi
The "Missa Sancti Josephi" (Zelenka-Werkverzeichnis/ZWV 14) has only been passed on in Zelenka’s autograph score, which is badly damaged but can be reconstructed with a little effort. No title page has been preserved, but from Zelenka’s handwritten catalogue of works that were performed in church services, which he had kept since 1726, it is possible to identify the title clearly.
|2||Gloria in excelsis Deo||2:07|
|3||Et in terra pax||3:39|
|5||Qui tollis peccata mundi||2:58|
|6||Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris||2:02|
|7||Quoniam tu solus Sanktus||3:29|
|8||Cum sancto Spiritu||2:45|
|9||Sanctus, Pleni sunt coeli, Osanna||1:59|
|13||Dona nobis pacem||3:10|
|20||Gloria Societatis Jesu||0:33|
|21||Pauperime, castissime Xaveri||3:14|
|23||In quo uno omnium||1:55|
|24||Agnus Dei I||2:11|
|25||Agnus Dei II||2:16|
1. From Prague to Dresden
Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745) was a contemporary of Vivaldi and Bach, but his music has a different sound. This can be traced back to Zelenka’s origins and career. He was baptised in Louňovice pod Blaníkem, about 30 km south-east of Prague on 16 October 1679. Zelenka grew up in Prague, where he attended the Jesuit grammar school in the Collegium Clementinum. The thorough knowledge of the Latin language that he acquired there later stood him in good stead when he set sacred texts to music. During his time with the Jesuits and also in the house of the Habsburg Governor in Prague, Baron von Hartig, Zelenka had the opportunity to become familiar with music of a high quality, such as masses by the Venetian composer Antonio Lotti (around 1666–1740). Since he played the violone (double bass), he would certainly also have taken part in performances. But the few documents available are not sufficient to allow a reconstruction of Zelenka’s musical activities over these years.
In 1710, Zelenka was engaged as a violone player at the Court in Dresden, where he remained until his death on 23 December 1745. He continued his studies, primarily with the Dresden Royal Kapellmeister Johann Christoph Schmidt (1664–1728) and also in the course of several visits to Vienna between 1716 and 1719 with the Imperial Kapellmeister Johann Joseph Fux (1660–1741), in order to become a composer. Among Zelenka’s early works – the works of a composer who was already around 40 years of age – special mention should be made in particular of the "Capricci" for orchestra and the six large trio or quartet sonatas, mostly for 2 oboes, obbligato bassoon, and basso continuo. These works reveal an extremely original and boldly inventive composer.
2. Zelenka’s path to sacred music
The Court in Dresden used Zelenka’s abilities in quite a different way, however. After 1720, Zelenka composed almost exclusively works for the Catholic Court’s church services in Dresden and not only masses and vespers but also more rarely encountered parts of the Catholic Liturgy – such as the Litany for Saint Francis Xavier, the "gloria Societatis Jesu", as it is described in the text of the Litany.
In order to understand Zelenka’s path, one must first know some facts about the history of the state of Saxony. The Electorate of Saxony and its capital, Dresden, was completely Protestant in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672) served the Court for over half a century as Kapellmeister. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) composed his Passions and most of his Cantatas in his role as Lutheran Cantor in the Thomaskirche in the Saxon town of Leipzig. In 1697 however, Elector Frederick Augustus I, who had been the ruling Saxon monarch since 1694 and who was also called Augustus the Strong (born 1670, Prince Elector of Saxony from 1694, King of Poland from 1697, died in 1733), had the opportunity to acquire the crown in the Elective Monarchy of Poland. But only a Catholic could become King of Poland. For this reason Augustus converted to Catholicism, which remained the denomination of the ruling family in Dresden, while the Electorate of Saxony remained Protestant.
In 1696 an heir to the throne was born in Dresden, who, like his father, was given the name of Augustus (Elector of Saxony from 1733, King of Poland from 1734, died in 1763). The heir to the throne spent many years abroad in his youth – in France, in Italy, and above all in Vienna. The Saxon politicians found a suitable wife for him there: Maria Josepha (1699–1757), an ardent Catholic and daughter of the Habsburg Emperor Joseph I, who had died in 1711. In 1719, they married and the young couple resided from that time onwards in the Dresden Palace. Only then was the Catholic form of worship, which had never particularly interested Augustus the Strong, developed further. The heir to the throne and his wife ensured that church music in particular blossomed at that time. The Dresdner Hofkapelle, one of the best orchestras in Europe, performed works composed by Johann David Heinichen (1683–1729), who was appointed Kapellmeister in 1716, by the opera composer Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692–1753) and also many works by Jan Dismas Zelenka.
With the exception of a few older pieces, Zelenka’s works for the Dresden Court church services began shortly after 1720; the last dated works – two big Marian litanies (Litaniae Lauretanae) – are from the year 1744. The services took place in a chapel within the palace that had been created by converting the former court theatre. (The famous Dresdner Hofkirche by the Italian architect Chiaveri was first dedicated in 1751). The period of Zelenka’s work as church composer in Dresden can be divided into three phases: first, the years 1721–1729, in which he and the Kapellmeister, Heinichen, created many works and put on performances; secondly, the time between Heinichen’s death and the appointment of Johann Adolf Hasse as the new Kapellmeister in 1733; and thirdly, the years up until Zelenka’s death in 1745 which are characterised by a few significant late works, particularly masses and litanies. The mass that has been recorded here for the first time is of key importance in Zelenka’s stylistic development; it belongs to the second phase, the period when the office of music director was vacant.
3. The “Missa Sancti Josephi” (ZWV 14; 1731 or 1732) – evidence of a sriking change in style
The "Missa Sancti Josephi" (Zelenka-Werkverzeichnis/ZWV 14) has only been passed on in Zelenka’s autograph score, which is badly damaged but can be reconstructed with a little effort. No title page has been preserved, but from Zelenka’s handwritten catalogue of works that were performed in church services, which he had kept since 1726, it is possible to identify the title clearly. In Zelenka’s "Inventarium rerum musicarum Ecclesiae servientium" (Catalogue of musical pieces that serve the Church), the following entry can be found under No. 42 (here somewhat simplified): "D# [D-Dur]. Missa S. Josephi facta occasione annomastiae diei Serenissimae Nostrae Principessae ac Dominae nostrae. 4: C. A. T. B., Violini 2, Oboe 2, Traversieri 2, Corni 2, Tubae 2, Viole 2, Tympani 2, Fagotto, Violone e Basso Continuo. Zelenka". This entry can only relate to the Mass in D Major recorded here. The large-scale ensemble that includes the flutes as well as the brass section and the usual oboes is not to be found anywhere else in Zelenka’s work.
The title of the Mass also explains a further peculiarity of this particular Mass. The relevant words can be translated as follows: "Missa Sancti Josephi, written (or performed) on the occasion of the name day of our Most Serene Highness, Princess and Mistress", by which is meant Maria Josepha, whose name day "Joseph" was apparently celebrated on the Feast of Saint Joseph, 19 March. On saints’ days, however, the Credo is left out of the Ordinary of the Mass. The "Missa Sancti Josephi" has no Credo; because of the reason for its composition, however, it is still to be considered complete. If the mass for the name day "Maria" had been meant, which in Dresden was celebrated on 8 December (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), Zelenka would have composed the Credo too. March 19 always falls in Lent, and sometimes even in Easter Week. During this time, church music is supposed to cast off its festive attire but contemporary indications show that some feast days could be celebrated even in these quiet times with musical brilliance; this can also be assumed to be the case for the Feast of St. Joseph and Zelenka’s Mass.
The position of entry No. 42 in Zelenka’s catalogue, together with the style of handwriting and the style of the Mass – as well as the consideration of external circumstances – point to the year 1732 (or 1731) for the creation and performance of the work; there will never be certainty about this. In Zelenka’s works, the "Missa Sancti Josephi" is the key piece of evidence for a change of style that the composer, already in his fifties, carried out around and after 1730, which cannot be understood without acknowledging the influence of the modern Italian opera in the style of Johann Adolf Hasse (1699–1783). Hasse’s appearance in Dresden was documented for the first time in the late summer of 1731; in September of that year his opera "Cleofide" was performed in Dresden, arousing tremendous interest and demonstrating the new musical style that left clear traces with Zelenka. But only after Augustus the Strong had died on 1 February 1733 and after the national period of mourning was over was Hasse appointed by Frederick Augustus II to be his new Hofkapellmeister. The office had been vacant for four years since the death of the two older Kapellmeisters, Schmidt (died 13 April 1728) and Heinichen (died 16 July 1729). Zelenka’s Mass was created during this interval; it is possible that the composer wanted to recommend himself for the office of Hofkapellmeister through the modern musical language in this work.
All of Zelenka’s masses are conceived as "number masses", as is the "Missa Sancti Josephi". The composer first arranged the text into numerous smaller sections which he then set to music as independent movements ("numbers"). The arrangement of the text and the way in which the individual sections were set to music was variable within certain limits. Certain constant features can be identified in Zelenka’s work, as with his contemporaries, but of his approximately twenty masses no individual one has exactly the same structure as any other. Over the course of the years, the types of movement did not change – arias, duets, trios, concertato arrangements, chorale fugues, and homophonic choral blocks were there from the first Mass ("Missa Sanctae Caeciliae", ZWV 1, 1712 with later stages of composition) until the last Mass ("Missa Omnium Sanctorum", ZWV 21, 1741). What changes is the method of musical expression, the "musical language". Polyphonic structures can often be found in the earlier works, even in the arias. The rhythm is considerably more influenced by syncopation than in the works of other composers from this era. The harmonies change rapidly and the singing voices can sometimes produce, even in the arias, broken chords and wide leaps that have an instrumental effect. In the later works the rhythm becomes very variable; low and differentiated note values are often encountered and the so-called "Lombard rhythm" (the inversion of the usual dotted rhythm) becomes a real stylistic feature of some movements. The harmonies change more slowly; secondary chords become more rare. As a consequence, long vocal melismas are encountered in the arias. The later music sounds generally "sweeter", although this does not exclude some spirited choral movements and melancholy passages. It would not be difficult to identify features of this style in the opera music of Hasse and his generation, which Zelenka had apparently studied thoroughly.
The composition of the orchestra that Zelenka could count on was predetermined. The nucleus was the two groups of string instruments: 2 violins, viola (occasionally 2 violas), and basso continuo. The two violins were frequently doubled with oboes. On high feast days, a trumpet choir was added that consisted of 2, 3, or 4 trumpets (in Zelenka’s works always tuned in D) and timpani. Four trumpets and timpani were used by Zelenka for instance in the Easter Mass "Missa Paschalis" (ZWV 7, 1726) and the "Missa Divi Xaverii" (ZWV 12, a Mass for a Saint’s Feast Day without a Credo, 1729). The horns that were typical of Dresden (Corni da caccia, in Zelenka‘s Masses always tuned in D) could, unlike the trumpets, also be used for "normal" occasions, but in Zelenka’s work they are only used in church music when the trumpet choir is also used. In Heinichen‘s masses, incidentally, this is not the case. The flutes are still missing from the orchestration; they were added to the orchestra quite late – around the middle of the 1720s – and they occur almost exclusively in Zelenka’s masses as obbligato instruments in arias; the "Missa Sancti Josephi" is a notable exception to this. In Zelenka’s time the most important flautist of the period, Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773), played in the Dresden orchestra; he did not go to the Court in Berlin until 1741.
The "Missa Sancti Josephi" gathers together the largest orchestra formation that Zelenka ever used. This is a sign of the importance of the occasion, but also a sign of Zelenka’s intention to show himself at his best. The trumpet choir consists of 2 trumpets and timpani; 2 horns are added. The pieces are to be played on natural instruments, which is an indication of the high level of virtuosity of the Dresden horn players who usually came from Bohemia, the real home of artistic horn-playing up to the present time. The woodwind group consists of 2 flutes and 2 oboes; then come the strings. The large ensemble of instruments is in no way only an accompaniment to the singing voices; its role is thoroughly independent, perhaps even dominant, which can be heard in the instrumental opening of the Kyrie, which is not at all usual in Zelenka’s masses. The Kyrie itself (Track 1) is set in three sections according to the text but is composed in a single movement. Zelenka forms a da capo structure by taking up again the (greatly shortened) first Kyrie after the expressive Christe. The form is closed and vocal soloists, choir, and instrument groups carry out a lively dialogue. Fugue-like entrances by the singing voices are treated playfully and are not condensed into a strict polyphonic movement.
In the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" immediately following this (Track 2), the principle of dialogue is continued. A simple unisono thema by strings and basso continuo rings out in alternation with instrumental and singing groups. The following movement “Et in terra pax” (Track 3) forms the strongest contrast to the splendid glorification of God on high: a soft string movement in low tones accompanies a choir that has been extended by including two bass voices to create a five-part harmony. The "Laudamus te" (Track 4) written for solo voices unites in the instruments several characteristics of a new, rhythmically refined melody featuring differentiated and low note values, springing syncopated turns and extended passages in trio parallels in the flutes, oboes, and violins. Rhythmically lively pedal points favour the playful interchange of instruments and voices. Expressive, chromatically enriched chorale fugues such as "Qui tollis peccata mundi" (Track 5) are a speciality of the church works by Zelenka in all phases of his composition; particularly moving here is the ending with the simple plea "suscipe deprecationem nostram". Then Christ sitting at God’s right hand is praised with great pomp in the movement "Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris" (Track 6), in which the "Lombard rhythms" already mentioned can be clearly heard. The movement "Quoniam tu solus Sanctus" (Track 7) is composed as a soprano aria that would certainly also be feasible in a cantata or opera. The powerful chorale fugue "Cum Sancto Spiritu" (Track 8) concludes the Gloria. Its theme is broken up by intervals and contains some rhythms that are very difficult to sing, but it is not at all untypical of Zelenka’s fugues on this section of text.
The first large block of the Ordinary of the Mass, consisting of the Kyrie and Gloria and performed together in the liturgy, is then effectively concluded; a bare half hour has passed. It is known that during the Baroque period, many masses consisted only of the Kyrie and Gloria; for instance, the so-called B-Minor Mass by J. S. Bach in its first edition, presented in 1733 to the new Dresden Elector Frederick Augustus II (BWV 232/I). Such Kyrie and Gloria masses, when released from their liturgical context, are good to listen to as complete musical works of art. This is not the case for saint’s day masses when the long, drawn out Credo, rich in text, is left out. In this case, after a long introductory section there follow only the relatively short sections of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, which – as the conclusion of the work that was introduced with the Kyrie and Gloria – carry too little weight. This shows the extent to which such saint’s day masses rely on the liturgy; the motto of the "Mass as a work of art" is only valid to a limited degree. It is nevertheless regrettable that the "Missa Sancti Josephi" has no Credo.
In the Sanctus (Track 9), Zelenka again offers all the means at his disposal and in the "Pleni sunt coeli" he even takes the solo soprano voice up to d´´´. In direct contrast to this is the singularly sad soprano aria "Benedictus" in B minor (Track 10). A short Hosanna fugue in D Major (Track 11) closes the Sanctus. The invocations of the "Agnus Dei" (Track 12) are made even shorter, ending with the final request "Dona nobis pacem" (Track 13). Here, Zelenka is reverting in a familiar way to the music of the Kyrie, to which the new words are set. This connects the end of the Ordinarium Missae with its beginning, and in this way gives – at least to the liturgical celebration – a certain musical quality of completion.
In the "Missa Sancti Josephi", Zelenka reached the zenith of his work in the new style, derived from operatic music. In no other work did he allow the Dresdner Hofkapelle with all its groups of instruments to play with such variety and to such a high technical level as here when the opportunity offered itself to him. It goes without saying that even today, this Mass can only be performed by highly qualified musicians. If Zelenka had indeed had hopes of gaining the post of Kapellmeister, they would have been finally destroyed when Johann Adolf Hasse was appointed in 1733. Zelenka apparently withdrew more and more. He wrote 7 other masses including the five last ones, which form a group of their own beginning with the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis" (ZWV 17) composed in 1736. Any external brilliance has now fallen away; there are no more horns or trumpet choir with timpani. Only once more (in the "Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis") do the flutes occasionally have a role as obbligato instruments, but otherwise Zelenka confines himself to minimal orchestration: the orchestra of strings, basso continuo and doubling oboes, the four-part choir, and the vocal soloists. Although the instrumentation of the late masses is on a small scale, the works themselves are extremely comprehensive, multi-faceted, sophisticated, and in the best sense idiosyncratic. The lack of external sumptuousness of sound – whether consciously chosen or determined by the circumstances – is offset by compositional qualities.
4. The “Litaniae Xaverianae” C Minor (ZWV 155; 1727) – a masterpiece of musical text presentation
A work that has up to now been almost inaccessible – but which is an uncommonly lovely work from his first creative phase – is the "Litaniae Xaverianae" in C Minor (ZWV 155), also called the "Litaniae de Sancto Xaverio" and dated 28 November 1727. The Xaverius Litanies with their long text have apparently not often been set to music in the course of music history; there must have been special circumstances for it. Saint Francis Xavier (Franciscus Xaverius) is the most highly honoured saint in the Jesuit Order. The Spaniard Francisco de Jassu y Javier (1506–1552), together with Ignatius von Loyola, was one of the founding fathers of the Jesuit Order. As early as 1541, however, he travelled on behalf of the King of Portugal and the Pope to Goa (India) and remained in Asia until his death in 1552. He worked as a missionary, particularly in India and Japan, and is considered the patron of all Christian missionaries. In 1619 he was beatified, and in 1622 he was canonised.
The veneration of Francis Xavier at the Court in Dresden is easy to understand. On the one hand, the Jesuits were the most influential clerics at the many Catholic courts of the Baroque period and thus also in Dresden; it is therefore understandable that the Jesuits celebrated this particular saint. On the other hand, Protestant Saxony and the town of Dresden must have seemed (from the Jesuits’ point of view) to be a country that urgently needed missionaries, which is why the Dresden base was also termed “missio” in the Jesuit terminology. From the chronicle records, it is possible to see that the 1720s were the heyday of the Dresden Figural Litanies in honour of Francis Xavier. Zelenka himself composed three Xaverius Litanies (ZWV 154, 1723; ZWV 155, recorded here, 1727; and ZWV 156, 1729). Johann David Heinichen, who remained a Lutheran all his life, also wrote two Xaverius Litanies (in 1724 and 1726). Finally, Giovanni Alberto Ristori and a less well known Dresden musician called Tobias Buz (1692/93–1760) composed Xaverius Litanies. The total number of Xaverius Litanies written in the 18th century has still to be researched.
The text of a litany is not easy to set to music. At the beginning of the Xaverius Litany there is a Kyrie, at the end an Agnus Dei (the concluding Christe/Kyrie verses have not been set to music by Zelenka), each with modifications in respect of the appropriate texts in the Ordinary of the Mass. In between, however, there is a long series of invocations first of all to God, to Christ, to the Holy Ghost and the Holy Trinity, then to Mary and Saint Ignatius (the founder of the Societas Jesu), before "Sancte Francsice Xaveri" is called by name four times altogether. Following this, the saint is described by his qualities or even in vivid expressions: "Speculum verae pietatis" (mirror of true piety), "Orientis splendor" (splendour of the East), each time with the call "Ora pro nobis" (pray for us), which rings out in the liturgical recital of the complete text 58 times in all. A composer must intervene here; one cannot compose the constant repetition of the petition. For this reason, Zelenka often groups together individual invocations and composes at the end of such a group the words "ora pro nobis". On the whole, however, he keeps very precisely to the text.
Zelenka‘s large-scale Xaverius Litany in C Minor was composed for the Xaverius devotions in Dresden in December 1727; as usual, the work was finished just a short time before that. Unlike the Mass orchestration, Zelenka limits himself here to the small standard orchestral ensemble: the four-part choir with vocal soloists and the orchestra of 2 violins with doubling oboes, a viola, and basso continuo. The richness of the music is in the musical thought, not in an elaborate clothing of sound. The Litany is, like every larger liturgical composition of this time, divided into numbered sections that are designed partly as choral movements, partly as arias, and partly also as mixed forms. All the 12 movements of the piece are evidently organised according to an easily comprehensible arrangement of keys, in which the keys follow one another in intervals of either fifths or thirds. Shortly before the middle, in numbers 5 and 6, D minor reaches the greatest distance from the home key of C Minor. The way back is the inversion of the way there (with a doubled step: 8/9=10/11): (1) C Minor (2) G Minor (3) E flat Major/G Minor (4) B flat Major (5-6) D Minor (7) B flat Major (8) E flat major (9) G Minor (10) E flat Major (11) G Minor (12) C Minor. A notable feature is that at the turning point of the arangement there is a short choral movement, made highly expressive through chromatics, which has the words, "ora pro nobis" – 'Salvation of the sick, pray for us' (No. 5, Track 18; the liturgical books write synonymously "Salus aegrotantium"). This choral movement ending in a half cadence forms the introduction to the highly virtuosic bass aria "Fugator daemonum" (No. 6); one can only guess at whether it was given this emphasis for a particular reason, but one cannot prove anything.
In the Litany in particular, it becomes clear how Zelenka again and again follows the words of the text with new musical inflections and occasionally intervenes in the structure by taking up the petition "Ora pro nobis" or even the salutation "Sancte Francisce Xaveri". The music can hardly ever lean on predictable melodic or periodic stereotypes or even large-scale formations such as the da capo form. The goal of many sections is the petition "ora pro nobis"; this goal lends the music its character, which is directed forwards and is extraordinarily suggestive. And even at the place where Zelenka repeats an already known movement (No. 9: "Sancte Francisce Xaveri, Animarum" [Track 22] cites No. 2: "Sancte Francisce Xaveri, dignissime" [Track 15]), the forward-leading character is maintained since the ninth movement is considerably longer in execution (112 bars) than the second movement (69 bars) and has a richer vocal setting. If one wants to uncover the beauties of this piece, one should first become familiar with the text of the Litany – since Zelenka’s composition is to a large extent "text music", not primarily in the sense of a musical strengthening of significant dimensions of the text (that is, not in the sense of a "pictorial rhetoric"), but in the sense of the text presentation, the prosody, which is related to music at a deep, quite elementary level.
5. The Mass and the Litany – two sides of a multi-faceted composer
The two works, with the Mass receiving its world-premiere recording, could be described as being antitheses. The Mass is a work in which the tonal sumptuousness is combined with a new type of subject matter for which Zelenka evidently received inspiration from another direction (from the opera of Hasse) and which possibly did not correspond to his nature in every detail. The Litany can be seen as an exemplary prototype of the compositional style that Zelenka developed after his intensive studies with Johann Joseph Fux, which was characterised by intensive closeness to the text and to the contrapuntal methods of working that were not aimed at ostentatious external pomp but at internal illumination, as it were. If one considers the Mass as belonging to the more recent Italian style, then one can relate the Litany to an older contrapuntal and at the same time melodic style that may also have Italian roots, but that was above all used by Austrian and Bohemian composers around 1700 and later. The works in each of the styles remain distinctive and vital, however, because of the individual who created them, Jan Dismas Zelenka.
The performance material for the recordings was prepared using the following scores:
Jan Dismas Zelenka, Missa Sancti Josephi (ZWV 14). According to the autograph score in the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden, Mus. 2358-D-43, published by Wolfgang Horn (Manuscript; repository version for "The German Musical Heritage", Tübingen 1992);
Jan Dismas Zelenka, Litaniae Xaverianae in C Minor (ZWV 155). According to the autograph score in the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden, Mus. 2358-D-59, published by Rainer Klaus (Manuscript; repository version for "The German Musical Heritage", Tübingen 1982).
Ever since its foundation in the year 2000, Ensemble Inégal has been developing as a unique performing body with a wide range of interpretation, from Renaissance music to Romanticism. Apart from referring to the group’s variability of instrumentation, the word Inégal – meaning unequal – also reflects its versatility of style and repertoire, its resourcefulness, and its unconventional approach to ways of interpretation. It prides itself in its refined choice of members, from the best performers in the Czech Republic and abroad. Today, Ensemble Inégal ranks among the very best musical ensembles; it has captured the attention of music lovers worldwide and has won enthusiastic acclaim from critics all over Europe and in the United States. Ensemble Inégal appears frequently at renowned music festivals in the Czech Republic (Prague Spring, FOK Prague, Concertus Moraviae, among others) and abroad (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Croatia) while also pursuing its successful recording activities. The group concentrates on discovering and resurrecting outstanding works. In what is a major contribution to the world of music, Ensemble Inégal is especially renowned for its first-class world-premiere recordings of works by the Czech baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka.
In 2008, some outstanding Czech and foreign interpreters and renowned early music soloists joined together to create an ensemble called the Prague Baroque Soloists. The aim of the group is to perform unconventional, universally stylish, and high-quality interpretations of European baroque music. At their concerts, the Prague Baroque Soloists appear as a chamber, vocal-instrumental ensemble. The Prague Baroque Soloists hold concerts and produce CD recordings together with Ensemble Inégal. With this ensemble, they have also recorded world premiere CDs of compositions by Antonio Vivaldi, by Jan Josef Ignac Brentner, and especially by Jan Dismas Zelenka. The artistic leader of the Prague Baroque Soloists is conductor and organist Adam Viktora.
Adam Viktora (b. 1973) graduated from Plzeň Conservatory in West Bohemia and from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He then furthered his education with private classes under the guidance of C. Bossert, and master classes and interpretation courses with Tagliavini, Erickssohn, Koimann, and Haselböck. As a conductor and organist, he has appeared at music festivals all over Europe. He has lectured and given concerts at organ congresses in Sweden and Croatia. He has made many recordings for radio and television. Much of his interest is centred on period organs, and on salvaging and promoting them. He is also active as an adviser of experts striving to restore priceless period organs, and as an author of articles in domestic and foreign periodicals. Mr. Viktora is the director of the Czech Organ Festival. Since 1998, he has taught organ at Plzeň Conservatory and since 2007 he has been a lecturer of music history at Prague Conservatory. He is art director of Ensemble Inégal and also of the Prague Baroque Soloists, with whom he has performed countless concerts and made several word-premiere recordings of little-known European baroque works.
violin - Lenka Torgersen
Jan Hádek, Simona Hurníková, Magdaléna Malá, Vit Nermut, Martina Stillerová, Kateřina Šedá, Petra Ščevková, Petr Zemanec
viola - Ivo Anýž, Vojtěch Semerád, František Kuncl
cello - Libor Mašek, Hana Fleková
bassoon - Kamila Marcinkowska, Kryštof Lada
theorbo - Jan Krejča
double bass - Ondřej Balcar, Alessandro Giachi
flute - Martina Bernášková, Andreas Kroper
oboe - Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg, Petra Ambrosi
French horn - Erwin Wieringa, Miroslav Rovenský
clarino - Hannes Rux, Helen Barany
organ - Vladimir Roubal
kettle drum - Pavel Rehberger