Jan Dismas Zelenka
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Jan Dismas Zelenka (baptised Jan Lukáš Zelenka; 16 October 1679 – 23 December 1745), previously also known as Johann Dismas Zelenka, was the most important Czech baroque composer. His music is admired for its harmonic invention and counterpoint.
Zelenka was born in Louňovice pod Blaníkem, a small market town southeast of Prague, in Bohemia as the eldest of the eight children born of Marie Magdalena (née Hájek) and Jiří Zelenka. The name Jan Dismas probably originates from his confirmation. His father was a schoolmaster and organist there; nothing more is known with certainty about Zelenka's early years. He received musical training at the Jesuit college Clementinum in Prague. Zelenka played the violone, the largest and lowest member of the viol family, analogous to the double bass in the violin family of stringed instruments. During his studies in Prague, Zelenka wrote his first compositions, all of them oratorial in character.
It is known that Zelenka had served Baron Hartig, the imperial governor who resided in Prague, before becoming a violone player in the royal orchestra at Dresden in about 1710. His emigration from Bohemia was most likely sudden, the reasons for it are not known and became the subject of some speculation. In some monographs, various personal reasons are alleged to be behind his escape, but the truth remains draped in mystery. His first opus in Dresden was "Missa Sanctae Caeciliae" (c. 1711).
Zelenka continued his education in Vienna with the Habsburg Imperial Kapellmeister Johann Joseph Fux beginning in 1715. According to his own account, he spent 18 months in Vienna and was back in Dresden by 1719. Whether or not he ever went to Venice is unclear, but a Saxon court document of 1715 records a royal cash advance for such a journey by Zelenka along with Christian Petzold and Johann Georg Pisendel.
Except for a visit in 1723 to Prague, where Zelenka conducted another opus[clarification needed], he remained in Dresden. Zelenka composed a number of instrumental compositions in Prague, as the autograph of the score of Concerto à 8 concertanti confirms: "six concerti written in a hurry in Prague in 1723".
In Dresden, Zelenka initially assisted the Kapellmeister, Johann David Heinichen, and gradually assumed Heinichen's duties as the latter's health declined. After Heinichen died in 1729, Zelenka applied for the post of Kapellmeister, but the post was given instead (in 1733) to Johann Adolf Hasse, reflecting the court's fashionable interest in opera as opposed to liturgical music. Alternatively, in 1735, Zelenka was given the title of "church composer" – "Compositeur of the Royal Court Capelle" (Johann Sebastian Bach had applied for this title in 1733, and was to receive it as well in 1736.) Zelenka was disappointed by the decision of the court, but, despite this, he worked very hard. We may guess that his social failure might have opened the door to the composer's free creative spirit, allowing him to produce his innovative work with its unique qualities.
Johann Sebastian Bach held Zelenka in high esteem, as evidenced by a letter from Bach's son C. P. E. Bach to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, of 13 January 1775, and Zelenka was a guest at Bach's home in Leipzig. Bach had some of his works copied: e.g. he instructed his son, Wilhelm Friedemann, to copy the Amen from Zelenka's third Magnificat (ZWV 108) for use in Leipzig at St.Thomas's church.
In addition to compositional work, Zelenka was pedagogically active throughout his life and educated a number of prominent musicians of that time, e.g. Johann Joachim Quantz, J. G. Barter or J. G. Rollig. As well as Pisendel, his close friends included Georg Philipp Telemann and Sylvius Leopold Weiss.
Zelenka died of dropsy in Dresden on December 23, 1745 and was buried on Christmas Eve. In his final years, he wrote works that were never performed during his lifetime. He never married and had no children; his compositions and musical estate were purchased from his beneficiaries by the Electress of Saxony, Maria Josepha of Austria and after his death were closely guarded (in contrast to his treatment when he was alive) and regarded as the court's possessions. Telemann, together with Pisendel, tried unsuccessfully to publish Zelenka's "Responsoria". He wrote on the 17th of April 1756, with undisguised contempt, that "the complete manuscript will be at the Dresden court, kept under lock and key as something very rare…".
There is no confirmed portrait of Zelenka. One should mention a mirror-image black-and-white copy of the well-known portrait of Fux, which has been passed off as a picture of Zelenka on several respected websites.
Musical style 
Zelenka's pieces are characterized by very daring compositional structure, with a highly spirited harmonic invention and perfection of the art of counterpoint. His works are often virtuosic and difficult to perform, but always fresh and surprising, with sudden turns of harmony, being always a challenge for their interpreters. In particular, his writing for bass instruments is far more demanding than that of other composers of his era. His instrumental works (the trio sonatas, capricci, and concertos) are exemplary models of his early style (1710s–1720s). The six trio sonatas demand high virtuosity and expressive sensitivity from performers. As Zelenka was himself a violone player, he was known to write fast-moving continuo parts with driving and complicated rhythm.
Zelenka was aware of the music in different regions of Europe. He wrote complex fugues, ornate operatic arias, galant-style dances, baroque recitatives, Palestrina-like chorales, and virtuosic concertos. Zelenka's musical language is closest to Bach's, especially in its richness of contrapuntal harmonies and ingenious usage of fugal themes. Nevertheless, Zelenka's language is idiosyncratic in its unexpected harmonic twists, obsession with chromatic harmonies, huge usage of syncopated and tuplet figures, and unusually long phrases full of varied musical ideas. He is sometimes considered as Bach's Catholic counterpart, in his works.
Zelenka's music is influenced by Czech folk music. In this respect, he continues the tradition of the production of specific Czech national music, initiated by Adam Michna z Otradovic and brought to its culmination later, in works by Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janáček.
The rediscovery of Zelenka's music 
The rediscovery of Jan Dismas Zelenka's work is attributed to Bedřich Smetana, who rewrote some scores from the archives in Dresden and introduced one of the composer's orchestral suites in Prague's New Town Theatre festivals in 1863.
It was mistakenly assumed that many of Zelenka's autograph scores were destroyed during the fire-bombing of Dresden in February 1945. However, the scores were not kept in the Katholische Hofkirche but in the basement of the Japanese Palace, north of the river Elbe. Some are certainly missing, but this probably happened gradually – and the lost scores represent only a small proportion of his extant works.
The interest in Zelenka's music has begun to grow, especially since the end of the 1950s. By the late 1960s and early 1970s all Zelenka's instrumental compositions and selected liturgical music were published in Czechoslovakia. The most important revival was demonstrated by the first presentation of selected compositions by Czech conductor Milan Munclinger and his ensemble Ars Rediviva. They were three trio sonatas in 1958–60, Sinfonia concertante in 1963 and the exquisite interpretation of "Lamentationes Jeremiae prophetae" with soloists Karl Berman, Nedda Casei and Theo Altmeyer in 1969. The music of Zelenka has become widely known and available since that time, through recordings and sparked the interest of musicians such as, Milan Munclinger (above), Heinz Holliger and Reinhard Goebel.
More than half of Zelenka's works have now been recorded, mostly in the Czech Republic and Germany. Such recordings include the masses Missa Purificationis, Missa Sanctissimae trinitatis, Missa votiva, Missa Sancti Josephi, and his secular works "Sub olea pacis" and "Il Diamante", mostly performed by new Czech ensembles using original instruments and interpretational techniques of the Baroque era - above all Musica Florea, Collegium 1704, Ensemble Inégal, and Capella Regia Musicalis.
In honor of Jan Dismas Zelenka, "The Autumn Music Festival under Blaník" ("Podblanický hudební podzim" in Czech) was founded in 1984. Since then, performances of Zelenka's music have regularly taken place in and around his birthplace.
The total number of Zelenka's known and attributed opus numbered works is 249. His sacred vocal-instrumental music is in the center of the compositions – over 20 masses, four extensive oratoria and requiems, two Magnificat and Te Deum settings, 13 litanies, many psalms, hymns, antiphons and other similar works comprise his legacy. Zelenka also created a number of instrumental works – six trio or quartet sonatas, five capricci, one Hipocondrie, Concerto, Overture and Symphonie. The opuses numbering is marked "ZWV" – "Zelenka-Werke-Verzeichnis" (Zelenka Works Index)
Sacred music 
The most appreciated of Zelenka's sacred works are probably his masses, above all his Missa Purificationis (this is the last mass to include brass instruments) and his final five pieces, ZWV 17–21, called "High Mass" compositions, written from 1736 until 1741, considered as Zelenka's compositional peak. The last three were also called "Missae ultimae" (Last Masses). The following list contains only the most important sacred works, that have been sufficiently explored to date.
Masses and requiems
- Missa Sancti Spiritus
- Missa Sancti Josephi
- Missa Purificationis Beatae Virginis Mariae
- Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis
- Missa Votiva
- Missa Dei Patris
- Missa Dei Filii
- Missa Omnium Sanctorum
- Requiem in C Minor
- Requiem in D Minor
- Il Serpente di Bronzo
- Gesù al Calvario
- I penitenti al sepolchro del Redentore
- Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento
- Litaniae Lauretanae
- Litaniae Lauretanae "Consolatrix afflictorum"
- Litaniae Lauretanae "Salus infirmorum"
- Litaniae Omnium Sanctorum
- Litaniae Xaverianae
Psalms and hymn settings
- Dixit Dominus
- Confitebor tibi Domine
- In exitu Israel
- Lauda Jerusalem
- Laudate pueri
- Ave maris stella in D Minor
- Chvalte Boha silného
- Ave Regina coelorum
- Regina coeli
- Salve Regina
Other liturgical and spiritual works
- Te Deum in D Major (2 settings)
- Magnificat in C Major and D Major
- Miserere in D Minor and C minor
- Lamentationes Ieremiae Prophetae
- XXVII Responsoria pro hebdomada
Secular works 
Zelenka composed only a few extensive vocal-instrumental pieces on secular themes, but one of them – Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis--Melodrama de St. Wenceslao (1723) – not only represents one of the high points in baroque music, but transcends it, as with many others of Zelenka's works. It is a monumental opus with aspects of melodrama, oratory and contemporary opera, composed for the coronation of Charles VI by the Czech king and celebrating the memory of the greatest Czech saint and patron of Bohemia, prince St. Wenceslao (Václav), one of the founders of the Czech state.
- Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis (conspicua orbi regia Bohemiae Corona – Melodrama de Sancto Wenceslao)
- Il Diamante
- Trio or Quartet Sonatas Nos. 1–6
- Capriccios Nos. 1–5
- Concerto à 8 Concertanti
- Hipocondrie à 7 Concertanti
- Overture à 7 Concertanti
- Simphonie à 8 Concertanti
Representative discography 
- Orchestrální skladby – Overture, ZWV 188, Sinfonia concertante, ZWV 189, Ars Rediviva, Martinů Chamber Orchestra, 1963, LP, Supraphon
- Lamentationes – abbreviated version of "Lamentationes Ieremiae prophatae", Ars Rediviva (Milan Munclinger), 1969, LP, Supraphon
- The Orchestral Works – Camerata Bern, 3 CDs, 1989, Universal
- Trio Sonatas 1–6, 2 CDs, 1993, Studio Matouš
- Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis, Musica Florea (Marek Štryncl), CD, 1994, Studio Matouš
- Requiem In D Minor; ZWV 48, Miserere In C Minor; Psalm 50, ZWV 57, CD, 1995, Supraphon
- Magnificat, ZWV 108; De profundis, ZWV 96; Litaniæ Omnium Sanctorum, ZWV 153, Salve Regina, ZWV 137) – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and chorus, CD, 1998, Supraphon
- Missa Dei Patris – Barockorchester Stuttgart, Kammerchor Stuttgart (Frieder Bernius), CD, 2001, Carus
- Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis – Musica Florea, Musica Aeterna, Ensemble Philidor, Boni Pueri (Marek Štryncl), 2 CDs, 2001, Supraphon; world premiere recording
- Gesù Al Calvario – Das Kleine Konzert, Rheinische Kantorei (Hermann Max), CD, 2001, Capriccio
- Lamentations Of Jeremiah – Chandos Baroque Players, CD, 2002, Helios
- Complete Orchestral Works – Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre (Jürgen Sonnentheil), 3 CDs, 2002, CPO
- I penitenti a sepolcro del Redentore, Capella Regia Musicalis (Robert Hugo) & soloists, incl.mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, CD, 2004, Supraphon
- I penitenti a sepolcro del Redentore ZWV 63, Collegium 1704, Collegium Vocale 1704 (Václav Luks), CD, 2009, Zig-Zag Territoires
- Missa Dei Filii, Litaniae Laurentanae "Salus Infirmorum" – Taffelmusik (Frieder Bernius), CD, 2004, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
- Composizioni per orchestra – Collegium 1704 (Václav Luks), CD, 2005, Supraphon
- Il serpente di bronzo – Ensemble Inégal (Adam Viktora), CD, 2005, Nibiru
- Missa purificationis Beatae Virginis Mariae – Ensemble Inégal (Adam Viktora), CD, 2007, Nibiru
- Missa votiva ZWV 18 – Collegium 1704, Collegium Vocale 1704 (Václav Luks), CD, 2008, Zig-Zag Territoires
- Il Diamante (Serenata ZWV 177), Ensemble Inégal, Prague Baroque Soloists (Adam Viktora), CD, 2009, Nibiru
- Missa Sancti Josephi ZWV 14, Litaniae Xaverianae ZWV 155 – Ensemble Inégal, Prague Baroque Soloists (Adam Viktora), CD, 2011, Nibiru
- Officium Defunctorum ZWV 47 / Requiem ZWV 46, Collegium 1704 / Collegium Vocale 1704 (Václav Luks), 2 CDs, 2011, Accent (Note 1 Musikvertrieb)
- Sepolcri ZWV 58–60. Collegium Marianum, Jana Semerádová, Praha 2011, Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague
- Sonatas – Ensemble Marsyas with Monica Huggett, SACD and digital download, 2012, Linn Records
Complete list of compositions 
Zelenka's complete compositions are listed in Wolfgang Reich's thematic catalogue Jan Dismas Zelenka: Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke (ZWV) and in Janice Stockigt's monograph, Jan Dismas Zelenka: A Bohemian Musician at the Court of Dresden.
- Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Zelenka, Jan Dismas". Baker's Biographical dictionary of musicians. (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. p. 1940. ISBN 0-02-870240-9.
- http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/articles/zelenka/bio.php Jan Dismas Zelenka biography by David Charlton
- "Jan Dismas Zelenka". bach-cantatas.com. 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
- http://mx.dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/lomejordelamusicaclasica/message/2035 Lo Mejor De La Musica Clasica
- http://www.lounovicepodblanikem.cz/historie-fakta.php?ctg=21/ J.D.Zelenka – Neglected genius by Vladimír Hirsch (in Czech)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jan Dismas Zelenka|
- The "Discover Zelenka" website, which includes a database of works and recordings. (It is even possible to get an up-to-date list of unrecorded works).
- The Zelenka Forum
- Jan Dismas Zelenka Detailed Biography of classical.net
- Wolfgang Reich's catalog of Zelenka's works
- Janice Stockigt: Jan Dismas Zelenka: A Bohemian Musician at the Court of Dresden
- Jan Dismas Zelenka (www.bach-cantatas.com)
- Music on Net
- Free scores by Jan Dismas Zelenka at the International Music Score Library Project
- Free scores by Jan Dismas Zelenka in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)