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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa Sancti Spiritus
1723 was a golden year in the musical life of the Dresden Catholic court church. Although regular performances of musical ...
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- Author: Zelenka, Jan Dismas
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Zelenka, Jan Dismas Missa Sancti Spiritus
1723 was a golden year in the musical life of the Dresden Catholic court church. Although regular performances of musical mass settings were introduced in 1721, it appears to have been two years later that the extraordinary flowering of liturgical composition and performance in Dresden seen throughout this decade really began. The court church was administered by Dresden-based Bohemian Jesuits, and their annual letter to Rome for 1723 makes special mention of the influence the music-loving Princess Maria Josepha had on this growth: ‘What is exceptional about our Serene Princess...is that on all Sundays and feast days throughout the year she has given lustre to the royal chapel during the Sung Mass and Vespers by her own and her court’s singular piety. As a further spur and encouragement to this piety, at major feasts the King’s Virtuosi vied in creating delight and exhibiting skill through totally new and exceptionally elegant compositions of Masses and Vespers’. Many of these new pieces were written by the court Kapellmeister Johann David Heinichen (1683–1729) and his deputy, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745). Several of Zelenka’s most important sacred works were composed in 1723, including his Lamentations pro hebdomada sancta (ZWV 54), the twenty-seven Responsoria (ZWV 55), the Litaniae Xaverianae (ZWV 154), and the mass setting that became the Missa Sancti Spiritus (ZWV 4). His monumental secular melodrama, Sub olea pacis (ZWV 175), written for the coronation of Charles VI, also received its premiere in Prague that year.
|Missa Sancti Spirius, ZWV 4|
|1||Kyrie eleison I.||2:22|
|3||Kyrie eleison II||1:48|
|4||Gloria in excelsis Deo||3:56|
|5||Qui tollis peccata mundi I||0:37|
|6||Qui tollis peccata mundi II||4:04|
|7||Quniam tu solus Sanctus||1:47|
|8||Cum Sancto Spiritu||2:45|
|9||Credo in unum Deum||1:05|
|10||Et incarnatus est||1:05|
|13||Et unam Sanctam||1:18|
|14||Et vitam venturi||1:38|
|17||Osanna in excelsis||0:55|
|19||Dona nobis pacem||1:44|
|Litanie di Vergine Maria, ZWV 149|
|21||Pater de caelis||1:48|
|26||Causa nostrae laetitiae||5:31|
The Missa Sancti Spiritus occupies a special place among Zelenka’s mass settings because it is the first to feature the lavish scoring of trumpets and timpani and the festive key of D major that were to become hallmarks of his solemn masses over the next decade. However, the precise occasion of its first performance in Dresden is not known. The title suggests the Feast of the Holy Spirit—that is, Pentecost (Whitsun)—on 16 May 1723 as the most likely date. Unfortunately, the Diarium kept by the Jesuits reports only that a mass setting with trumpets and timpani by an unnamed composer was heard on this day. The Feast of Saint John of Nepomuk, Martyr Patron of Bohemia and Patron of the Saxon Mission, coincided with Pentecost Sunday in 1723 (and again in 1728); it is therefore possible that the Jesuits’ account of the ‘Sung Mass’ that honoured him also contains, by inference, a reference to the performance of ZWV 4. Nonetheless, from the evidence currently available, it cannot be assumed that the Missa Sancti Spiritus was always intended as a Pentecost mass, and the original form of the work may not even have borne this title. One alternative hypothesis suggests that the piece was initially composed as a votive mass for an entirely different feast day, which would connect it stylistically with the 1725 Kyrie-Gloria mass Missa Fidei (ZWV 6) and possibly the now-missing Missa Spei (ZWV 5). This too, however, is debatable.
Zelenka’s autograph manuscript of the Missa Sancti Spiritus, in two volumes, is today kept at the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden. It is a very complex source that bears witness to a long and convoluted history: a variety of paper types, inks, handwriting styles and revisions, with many pasteovers, are found throughout, indicating multiple layers of working that were made over a period of time. Although the sixty-four parts that accompanied this score are now missing from Dresden, these features nonetheless allow us to reconstruct the different stages of the work’s composition. The original version of the Missa Sancti Spiritus, as heard in 1723, consisted of the Kyrie and Gloria sections only. Sometime in late 1728 or early 1729, Zelenka decided to expand them into a complete mass setting by adding the Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and he also significantly reworked the existing sections. These alterations are clearly visible in the autograph and range from small changes in individual parts to the insertion of extra passages, as in the trumpet and timpani lines of the spectacular ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ fugue. Most significantly, Zelenka added two flute parts, which were not present in the 1723 version.
The revisions Zelenka made to the Missa Sancti Spiritus reflect changes in personnel and performance practice in the Dresden court orchestra during the 1720s. It was only from late in this decade that Zelenka’s works began to routinely incorporate duetting flutes as a compositional device: the impetus for this may have been the formal appointment, in March 1728, of Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773) as a court flautist alongside his former teacher Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin (1693–1768). The beautiful duet writing in the ‘Christe eleison’ and the second ‘Qui tollis’ is thus evidence of the prominent position both flautists held in the court orchestra at this time. Other sections of the work dating from around 1729, such as the ‘Sanctus’, show evidence of a shift away from French performance styles towards those of Italy, as introduced by Johann Georg Pisendel (1687–1755), who had become concertmaster of the court orchestra in October 1728. It is also notable that the only two solo arias in the entire piece—the virtuosic ‘Et resurrexit’ and ‘Benedictus’—are found in these added sections. These arias were most likely sung by the bass Cosimo Ermini and the tenor Matteo Lucchini, respectively, who were part of a group of seven Italian singers brought from Venice to Dresden in late 1724, and for whom Zelenka wrote much of his solo sacred music in the following years.
Although the Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei mostly consist of newly composed music, recent research has shown that these two solo arias were actually written around 1725, as settings of completely different texts. The autograph reveals how, around 1729, Zelenka physically removed these movements from their original sources and altered both the text and the music in order to seamlessly fit them into his new mass. In the ‘Benedictus’, for example, a portion of the original text, ‘Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius’, is still visible underneath the revised version, which has been pasted over the original. In addition, the opening fragment of a redundant ‘Qui tollis’ is found at the end of the movement, likewise now covered up by a large pasteover. This movement was therefore originally a setting of the ‘Domine Deus’ text from the Gloria of an unknown mass setting, and the heavy erasures and different ink colours observed in the manuscript show how Zelenka modified the musical notation to suit the new text underlay of the ‘Benedictus’. The model for the ‘Et resurrexit’ is less certain, but it may have been a setting of the ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’, a movement in which—as here—Zelenka often employed long melismas and elements of the Polish style. This technique of repurposing pre-existing music for a new work, known as parody, is also seen in the Agnus Dei, the second section of which is partly based on the opening of the ‘Caligaverunt oculi mei’ from ZWV 55.
Across its nineteen movements, the Missa Sancti Spiritus features many symbolic and rhetorical devices, and—appropriately for a work associated with Pentecost—Zelenka musically juxtaposes the two realms of heaven and earth throughout the piece. In the ‘Gloria in excelsis’, for example, the extremely difficult figuration and high tessitura of the brass parts imitate the trumpets of angels in heaven. These are then contrasted in the ‘Et in terra pax’ with chromatic vocal melodies in a lower register, symbolising man on earth. Similarly, in the ‘Credo in unum Deum’, Zelenka word-paints the text ‘descendit de coelis’ using a descending harmonic sequence, while the playful ‘Et resurrexit’ features rapidly ascending scales that evoke the resurrection and ascension of Christ. More introspective, but no less striking, is the haunting second ‘Qui tollis’ in which a plaintive melody is layered in imitation across groups of stringed and wind instruments, thick with suspensions and other harmonic dissonances, before being adopted by the duetting solo soprano and alto. Underneath this counterpoint, tutti bass voices periodically interject with intonations of ‘suscipe, suscipe, deprecationem nostram’, pleading for the acceptance of the prayers of sinners, while the flutes play in further imitation above the entire ensemble, almost as if in another realm. Such contrasting vocal and instrumental textures, along with dramatic pauses and sudden tempo changes, give this movement a special expressive character.
Whether the Missa Sancti Spiritus was heard in Dresden again after 1729 is not certain, but there is evidence in the autograph of further revisions by Zelenka that suggest another performance may have taken place in his lifetime. It was also studied and performed elsewhere: a set of parts dating from the early 1750s reveals it was heard in Leipzig under the direction of Johann Sebastian Bach’s successor, Gottlob Harrer (1703–1755), who had made his own copy of the work while studying with Zelenka. In the absence of the original parts, this copy is of great importance because it transmits many apparently authentic performance markings and revisions not found in the autograph (including embellishments found in the two flute parts in the second ‘Qui tollis’). Harrer’s manuscripts subsequently travelled northwards to Berlin, where they became the models for several other sources that show ZWV 4 was circulated, studied and performed there at various times during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The work was given its first known modern performance in 1981, as part of the centenary celebration concert for the St. Johannes-Kirche in Tübingen, and it is recorded here for the first time using the new critical edition (taken from A. Frampton, ‘Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Missa Sancti Spiritus, ZWV 4: A Critical Edition and Study of the Manuscript Sources’, MMus Diss., University of Melbourne, 2015). This edition is based on both Zelenka’s autograph manuscript and the full score copy by Harrer, which resurfaced in 1999 as part of the archive of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin.
Zelenka’s earliest surviving litany, the Litaniae Lauretanae (ZWV 149), also receives its premiere recording here. Very little is known about the genesis of this work aside from the place and date of its composition, as given on the title page of Zelenka’s autograph score: ‘à Vienn: li 10: | Febru: 1718’. It was therefore composed during the period in which Zelenka was studying in Vienna with Johann Joseph Fux (c.1660–1741), and is closely contemporaneous with the G major Capriccio (ZWV 183, dated 24 January 1718).
The sole extant source for ZWV 149 is the autograph, which seems to have become fragmented at a very early stage. It does not appear in Zelenka’s 1726 personal catalogue (Inventarium) of his music, and in the later (c.1784) catalogue of the Dresden court church’s music holdings, it is listed with the note ‘imperfetta’. Unlike the autograph of the Missa Sancti Spiritus, into which two movements from pre-existing works were inserted, here the reverse process is observed: there are gaps in the manuscript where Zelenka has physically removed parts for insertion into other scores. However, the details of exactly when and how this occurred, the nature of the missing material, and the relationships between the model and parody works are not yet fully understood. So far, the only other original fragment of the ZWV 149 autograph that has been securely identified is the ‘Agnus Dei’, which was inserted into a separate Agnus Dei setting (ZWV 37) around 1722–1724, where it forms the middle section of a tripartite work. Although the music from the soprano aria ‘Mater Christi’ was reused in 1725 as the tenor aria ‘De torrente’ in the Dixit Dominus (ZWV 66), in this case Zelenka copied out a new version, thus leaving the original intact.
Tantalisingly, annotations by Zelenka in the autograph reference two other works into which music from ZWV 149 was apparently inserted. One, in the ‘Kyrie’, reads ‘applicatum in Lita: de S: X:’; this surely refers to the ‘Kyrie’ of the 1723 Litaniae Xaverianae (ZWV 154), which reuses much of the material from the opening movement of ZWV 149. However, the parody is not exact, and in the autograph of ZWV 154 the music is newly written out, raising the question of what happened to the original missing portion of ZWV 149. Four annotations reveal other sections was inserted into the Missa Theophorica (ZWV 241), a double-choir mass setting for Corpus Christi that is listed in the Inventarium but no longer survives. Judging from these annotations, the reuse of material in the Missa Theophorica must have been quite extensive, but its loss means it is impossible to reconstruct ZWV 149 in its original form unless further source material resurfaces.
Given this unsatisfactory situation, the present recording includes only those movements that survive complete in the autograph, or that can be reconstructed from known parody material. Accordingly, the fragmentary tenor aria ‘Virgo prudentissima’, which falls between the ‘Mater Christi’ and the ‘Speculum justitiae’, has been omitted. As the ‘Agnus Dei’ survives only as an incomplete fragment in ZWV 37, it has likewise not been included. However, a small amount of reconstruction has been applied to the ‘Kyrie’ in order to make it performable: in accordance with Zelenka’s annotation, seventeen bars of music (44–60) have been lifted from the ‘Kyrie’ of ZWV 154 and inserted here (as bars 31–47), alongside four bars (47–50) of newly composed material that cannot be reconstructed from the parody. Despite its incomplete state, ZWV 149 is of great importance as Zelenka’s first known litany setting, and both it and the Missa Sancti Spiritus provide fascinating insights into his processes of composition and revision.
Dr. Andrew Frampton, Faculty of Music - University of Oxford