Jan Dismas ZELENKA (1679-1745)
Cantatas for Holy Sepulchre
Immisit Dominus pestilentiam ZWV58 (1709) [20:11]
Attendite et videte ZWV59 (1712) [22:59]
Deus dux fortissime ZWV60 (1716) [22:11]
Hana Blažiková (soprano): David Erler (alto): Tobias Hunger (tenor): Tomáš Král (bass)
Collegium Marianum/Jana Semerádová
rec. May 2011, Church of Virgin Mary under the Chain, Prague
SUPRAPHON SU 4068-2 [65:33]

We are living in fortunate times for the lover of Zelenka; not the zenith, yet, I suspect, but if we are to keep getting discs such as this one and Accent’s recent recording of Officium deferntorum and the Requiem in D, then not far short. I mention the Accent disc in particular, not simply because it’s a revelation — astonishing, really — but also because two of the singers reappear in this disc; feisty soprano Hana Blažiková and the smooth, evenly produced bass of Tomáš Král. One of Supraphon’s recent secret weapons, Collegium Marianum directed as ever by Jana Semerádová, is on hand, and to complete the good news the recording venue is, again, the Church of Virgin Mary under the Chain, in Prague, which offers a tremendous acoustic, one that Supraphon’s engineers know well.
Should one add more? What about that all three of these Cantatas for Holy Sepulchre are heard in their first ever recordings or that the performances are, again, outstandingly good? It’s true that these three works are relatively early, dating between 1709 and 1716 — which is to say between Zelenka’s thirtieth and thirty seventh birthdays. But they do not lack for finesse, nor do they lack affecting features such as to warrant the closest interest.
Immisit Dominus pestilentiam is the earliest of the three, a compact twenty minute cantata finely balanced between arias, choruses and recitative. It offers numerous opportunities for instrumental felicity; try the absolutely lovely chalumeau playing - it’s by Igor Františák, and he should be name checked - which is almost folk-like in its address. The string staccatos are appropriately brusque in the Clamate, guttae sanguinis. Male alto David Erler has a most pleasing voice but Blažiková, always an incisive, powerful but never strident singer, shades the honours. Attendite et videte possesses great amplitude and breadth, once again illuminated by many subtle accompanying touches — note here, for instance, the bassoon line in Deus regit nos as it intertwines with the strings. Král sings especially well in this movement. Confidence and subtlety mark out these performances and when the organ and double bass are as well balanced as they are in the Deus dux fortissime we are assured of another splendid performance. The chorus is incisive, rhythmically well sprung. In fact everything about this disc is of the highest class.

This ‘Music from Eighteenth Century Prague’ series is shaping up to be in the very best tradition of this label. I recall their gorgeous LPs with vivid colour art work and pockets for booklet notes, which restored performances of baroque music conducted by the likes of Talich and Ancerl amongst more contemporary practitioners.
I’m keen to hear more from Jana Semerádová and her forces.
Jonathan Woolf

Splendid, incisive, rhythmically well sprung.