Hyperion Records

Officium defunctorum, ZWV47
composer
1733
author of text

Recordings
'Zelenka: Sacred Music' (CDH55424)
Zelenka: Sacred Music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55424  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Details
Movement 1: Invitatorium  Regem, cui omnia vivunt
Movement 2: Nocturn 1 Lectio 1  Parce mihi, Domine
Movement 4: Nocturn 1 Lectio 2  Taedet animam vitae meae
Movement 6: Nocturn 1 Lectio 3  Manus tuae fecerunt me

Officium defunctorum, ZWV47
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The Officium defunctorum (Z47) was written at the same time as the large Requiem in D major which was composed for the funeral service of August the Strong. The Electoral Prince had died on 1 February 1733 in Warsaw and was—as King of Poland—buried in the Polish ‘coronation’ city of Cracow. Only his heart, locked in a silver capsule, was transported to Dresden. The Officium consists of a gloomy Invitatorium (‘Regem, cui omnia vivunt’) in C minor, followed by nine pairs of Lesson and Responsory. The three Lessons recorded here demonstrate Zelenka’s skilful use of instrumental colours in chamber music. In the aria of the first Lesson the desolate text is enhanced by the unusual sound of the smallest of the chalumeau family, the soprano (its playing register and delicate character belying an overall length of just 26cm), accompanied by muted strings. For the aria of the second Lesson he calls upon another rare woodwind colour, that of two muted oboes, instructing that the bass line below them should be played by the violins, viola, bassoon and organ, without cello or violone. In the third Lesson he turns to a scoring often featured by Baroque composers at moments of mourning, that of a pair of recorders.

The Invitatorium (the invitation addressed to the faithful to take part in the Divine Office remembering the dead) gives a powerful impression of Zelenka’s choral style, presenting a unique mixture of modern, dramatic gestures of harmony, dynamics and scoring with elements of the old-fashioned writing for which Prince Friedrich August had shown such disdain. Multi-sectional, the work is, from its opening sforzando ‘stabs’ and rolling arpeggios from the muted strings, predomi­nantly dark and unsettled in mood, lightened only by the emergence in triple metre of two other-worldly flutes. The instrumental elements are mixed with passages of extended accompanied semi-recitative for the alto soloist and interpolations from the chorus. Zelenka also includes an all-too-brief depiction of the raging of the sea, wonderfully scored, and before the final section a plainsong statement of the Requiem chant.

from notes by Peter Wollny © 2003
English: Viola Scheffel

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