Zelenka: De profundis; Miserere; Requiem

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COMPOSERS: Zelenka
LABELS: Passacaille
WORKS: De profundis; Miserere; Requiem
PERFORMER: Il Fondamento/Paul Dombrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 9528
Bach’s Bohemian contemporary Zelenka worked for most of his life in Dresden, where he played the double bass in the excellent and renowned court orchestra. He was a composer with a rewarding streak of originality, sometimes quirky but often colourful and expressively exciting. That much immediately becomes apparent in the opening phrases of his fine C minor Miserere whose scourging inflections with their anguished suspensions vividly complement the spirit of the psalm text. It’s a piece which, in some respects, defies neat classification, containing sections allied to the early classical style with others that are of a stricter discipline, more austere and which remind us that among his most important mentors were Fux in Vienna and Lotti in Venice.

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The remaining two works are hardly less interesting. One of them is an effective setting of the psalm De profundis which, like the Miserere, comprises mainly choral sections and contains some arresting passages for three trombones. The other is, at least in respect of length, the main feature of the programme. It’s a Requiem in C minor which has surprises in store at almost every turn. New and older styles jostle together throughout, almost always informed by Zelenka’s distinctive craftsmanship and his highly developed sense of orchestral colour. The lyrical ‘Liber scriptus’ with engaging passages for oboes and chalumeau is such an instance, while the concluding chorus of the Kyrie offers the listener a fine example of the composer’s contrapuntal art. Here are rewarding performances of late Baroque repertoire which is anything but mainstream. Nicholas Anderson