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Jósef ZEIDLER (1744-1806)
Mass in D (1769)
Iwona Hossa (soprano), Agnieska Rehlis (mezzo-soprano), Rafal Bartmiński (tenor), Robert Gierlach (bass)
Sinfonia Varvosia, Camerata Silesia The Katowice Singers Ensemble/Jerzy Maksymiuk
rec. 5 October 2015 Basylika Księży Filipinów na Świętej Górze w Gostyniu
DUX 1314 [60:40]

Josef Zeidler was a new name to me, as he probably is to most readers. This Mass in D from 1769 is well worth hearing.

Little is known about this Polish composer’s life before 1775, when he joined the musical world of the Holy Mountain religious community near Gostyn. There, Zeidler played (who knows what instrument), copied music, and composed some 30 pieces of religious music before his death in 1806. The convent at Holy Mountain was an important center of musical life, with an extensive library of works by the leading figures of classicism: Haydn, Mozart, Played, Dittersdorf, Stamitz, and Cherubini. Germany seized this region in the partition of Poland, eventually closing the convent and dispersing its library. Even after the re-establishment of Polish sovorereignty, it was difficult to identify and locate Zeidler’s compositions, some of which (including the present mass) ended up in Munich.

Musica Sacromontana is an annual festival which promotes the music of Holy Mountain, and which organized the present recording. This is Zeidler’s earliest known composition, written in 1769, before he moved to Gostyn. Although Zeidler was only 25, he wrote a very ambitious work. We remain ignorant about the occasion or patron for this piece. In her notes to this recording, Ewa Obniska succinctly describes the mass as “monumental, technically dazzling, and bombastic.”

Zeidler and Haydn were contemporaries, and Zeidler’s hour-long mass follows many of the same formal patterns as Haydn’s grand Missa Cellensis in C (once known as the Cecilia Mass), written around the same time. This is ceremonial music imagined on a vast scale, with florid vocal lines and dramatic fugues. Zeidler’s mass, like Haydn’s, does not yet fully speak the language of high classicism.

The performance is quite satisfactory. Jerzy Maksymiuk leads with a lot of energy, which does not flag over an hour-long piece. The four soloists are all forceful and technically assured in some very demanding parts. The 23-voice choir is robust and often thrilling. The Sinfonia Varsovia uses 25 players, all strings save bassoon, two trumpets, and organ. Presumably other wind instruments were lacking in Zeidler’s 1769 orchestra. The solitary high trumpets give a certain archaic quality to the sound, whereas Zeidler’s melodic lines are pretty up to date for 1769.

There are 19 sections to this mass. Among many highlights are the Christe (a flashy duet for two sopranos), a Gloria in which the choir sings a rousing martial fanfare, the Domine (a flowing duet for tenor and bass in 6-8 time), a Benedictus which is showy instead of calming, and three great fugues (Kyrie II, Cum Sancto, and Hosana).

There are no other recordings of Zeidler’s mass; this is a wonderful introduction to a very appealing work. The sound on this Dux recording is excellent.

Richard Kraus



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