The cover is rather beautiful and the disc fits neatly into
Supraphon’s ‘Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague’
series but one small word of warning needs to be given. This
release is not - and makes no pretence to be - a new one, even
though the livery is part of that ongoing marque. It was recorded
back in 2000, released in 2001 and received a Cannes Classical
Award in 2003. So, if you possess SU3502-2 you have this same
recording, though this latest incarnation does something that
that old one couldn’t do; in the first CD you can now
access a facsimile of the original printed libretto from 1723
in Latin and German in PDF format.
Zelenka produced music for the 1723 coronation in Prague of
the Habsburg emperor Charles VI. The local dignitaries laid
on an allegorical play - fortunately excised here; we get just
the music - of, by all accounts, some considerable obsequiousness.
Prague’s Jesuits went merrily to town with a panegyric
lauding the Emperor as Fons inexhaustus immortalis gloriæ.
This obligatory salute was accompanied by some Jesuitical political
one-upmanship, as well. But though the text is hardly worth
preserving, the music is another matter.
Zelenka’s music doesn’t, apparently, comment on
the text, which is another reason not to mourn its excision.
Rather, it offers stand-alone pleasures, many of them strongly
Italianate. The opening Symphonia is cut from his very finest
cloth, a terrifically involving fast movement, inventive, colourful,
rhythmically buoyant and ear-catching. This, one feels, was
Zelenka saying to the Emperor and the assembled nobility: just
listen to me! It doesn’t harm matters that it’s
laid out in a quasi-operatic three parts. The ensuing choruses
and arias and associated recitatives offer taxing divisions,
considerable opportunities for lyrical expressions, and also
for crisp orchestral commentaries and interjections. The
aria that ends the first ‘actus’ is a lovely, lilting
one, and is one of Zelenka’s most inspired moments in
Zelenka reserved some particularly rich moments for the chalumeau
and it can be heard in the slow aria (No.22) in the second ‘actus’
- where it’s played with haunting warmth by Christian
Laitherer. A word here, then, about the orchestra, which is
an original band (A’= 415 Hz) directed by Marek Štryncl
with incision and precision. Its contributions are invariably
appropriate and arresting, so too those of the individual choirs
- Boni Pueri, the boys’ choir, makes its own presence
felt as well, and their very distinctive bright sound can be
enjoyed in the second part of the work.
The solo singers are rather variable. The bass is quite light,
though good, the tenor is classy, the sopranos pure voiced,
and the counter-tenor a bit hooty.
If you missed the Melodrama first time around, this new incarnation
has been beautifully presented in a slipcase and distinguished