Saturday, 18 October 2014

Zelenka - Melodrama to St Wenceslaus

Collegium Vocale 1704 perform Zelenka's Melodrama to St Wenceslaus from the 2013 Herne Early Music Days Festival. It is available now on BBC Radio 3. Melodrama to St Wenceslaus, or, to use its original Latin title Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis conspicua orbi regia Bohemiae Corona: Melodrama de Sancto Wenceslao (Under the Olive Tree of Peace and the Palm Tree of Virtue the Crown of Bohemia Splendidly Shines Before the Whole World: Melodrama to Saint Wenceslaus), ZWV 175,V " Jan Dismus Zelenka (1679-1745) was a contemporary of Bach , Monteverdi and Rameau. By baroque standards, the orchestra is huge, and there's singing and spoken dialogue. No expenses spared: it was evidently a piece meant to impress and make a power statement. It was commisioned by the Jesuit order for the occasion of a visit, in 1723, from the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI.  By praising the virtues of the medieval King Wenceslaus,  hero and saint of Bohemia, the Jesuits might have been making a political point: don't mess with us, don't mess with Bohemia.
The piece is fascinating because it's not religious music, nor is it an opera, but an early music drama. The performance is wonderful, full of brightness and energy - the spirit of a confident era. Highly recommended as this was recorded live at an early music festival and isn't available on CD.

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