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Józef ZEIDLER (1744 - 1806)
Missa ex D (1769)
Iwona Hossa (soprano)
Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo-soprano)
Rafal Bartminski (tenor)
Robert Gierlach (bass)
Sinfonia Varsovia
The Katowice Singers
Ensemble Camerata Silesia/Jerzy Maksymiuk
rec. October 2015, Bazylika Ksiç Filipinów na Świętej Górze w Gostyniu
DUX 1314 [60:40]

Józef Zeidler is one of those neglected composers whose only mistake was to have been flourishing in a period of Polish classicism during which that nation’s cultural centres were falling on hard times due to partitioning by foreign powers. Zeidler enjoyed renown in his day, becoming house composer at the Święta Góra monastery in Gostyń. This congregation was broken up in 1876 by the Prussian authorities and its many collected manuscripts were dispersed. Some have been uncovered over the years by the Zeidler Society, and this Missa ex D was found to have come from another lost collection, this time from the Cistercian monastery in Obra – subsequently emerging in Munich.

This is Zeidler’s earliest known work, and only exists in manuscript which may or may not be in the composer’s own hand. Ewa Obniska’s booklet notes point to the “youthful bravado” in much of the music, and there is indeed an uplifting quality to this work which is aided by Jerzy Maksymiuk’s lively tempi and rhythmic clarity. The recording is live but very clean, set in a big acoustic but with plenty of punch to the sound, the halo of resonance giving everything plenty of air but very much avoiding any tendency to swamp details. The strings are a fine ensemble, with subtly mixed organ continuo and a bassoon to add beef to the bass. A pair of trumpets give added drama to particular settings such as that of the Credo, which also uses the violins for ‘reverse Mannheim Skyrocket’ effects, scurrying with downward scales. The pictures in the booklet seem to show relatively compact forces that sound much bigger on the recording, which is always an indication of excellent intonation and tight ensemble work.

Zeidler’s idiom is “an unabashed manifestation of the classicist musical idiom, with its hallmarks of symmetry at all levels, simple motifs, and transparent textures all in evidence.” Leaving behind the complications of the old-fashioned Baroque style, the harmonies are elegant but often diatonically undemanding, the expressive content resting on the lyrical power behind the words of the mass, especially in choral settings such as the Qui Tollis. This has a nice variation between solo ensemble voices and choir, the latter of which is set at times with discomfortingly high notes for the sopranos, who cope well indeed it has to be said. The most special moments are in the slower settings such as the first half of the Sanctus and the penultimate Agnus Dei, which explore some lovely, restrained harmonic sequences. The solo singers are very good, coping with the more virtuoso passages given to them, especially the soprano part in the Laudamus Te and Benedictus.

On this showing, Józef Zeidler’s surviving works are certainly worth seeking out. There are other pieces available in this nicely presented Musica Sacromontana series and further Zeidler releases will surely appear in the future.

Dominy Clements
Previous review: Richard Kraus



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