ZELENKA Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae
If the ‘Z’ section of your CD library is looking under-nourished, you ought quickly to acquire this new addition to the Zelenka discography. Recordings of his Lamentations of Jeremiah are rare – this is only the fourth complete recorded cycle to have been released – and this generously filled disc will definitely help to reinforce Zelenka’s position as not only one of Bohemia’s Baroque ‘greats’ but also worthy of ranking with Handel, Vivaldi and Bach.
This release contains the first of two cycles of the six Lamentations, composed in 1722 23 for the liturgy of Tenebrae, the Services of Shadows which are held in Holy Week. They are all scored for a solo voice and small orchestra, and generally feature a pattern of alternating arias and recitative with meditative plainchant introductions providing an interesting link to earlier Renaissance settings of the texts. In comparison to his contemporaries, Zelenka’s style will seem almost quaint, if not downright old-fashioned. At times this could be music of a decade or two earlier, for example the Handel of the 1700s – there are a couple of passages which could have come directly from his Dixit Dominus. The shadow of Corelli’s string-writing also looms large at times.
Of the performances themselves, all is splendid. The balance of the period instruments is perfectly judged, with intelligent and characterful singing from all three soloists. The greatest and most welcome surprise is the inclusion of the obbligato chalumeau in the Lamentation for Good Friday – a delicious conclusion to a memorable release.