Since giving our performance of the Missa Dei Patris by the little-known Jan Dismas Zelenka on 1 December, we have learned that one of the world’s leading authorities on the Bohemian composer lives in Melbourne: she is Dr Janice Stockigt, an Associate Professor and Honorary Principal Fellow of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in the University of Melbourne. Dr Stockigt has written on Zelenka for, among other publications, the authoritative Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and spends a great deal of time in the Dresden Court archive, doing research on Zelenka. So, having failed to take advantage of her expertise in advance of our concert, we decided to do so after the event, by sending her a copy of the recording of the performance.
Dr Stockigt was in the process of reviewing 8 CDs of Zelenka’s music when our recording arrived. She commented that “each of the eight CDs I’ve reviewed is recorded at 415 and I’ve become so used to this sound that I now expect all Zelenka to sound like this”. (In Baroque Pitch, at which early music specialists usually perform, A above Middle C is tuned to 415Hz, while modern Concert Pitch has A at 440Hz.) Dr Stockigt explained that when these works are performed at modern Concert Pitch (as we did in our performance) a strain is put on choristers’ voices in high tessitura passages.
Going beyond this technical point, Dr Stockigt said that she found our performance very enjoyable and was particularly impressed at the way it had brought out the drama implicit in much of Zelenka’s writing.
From what Dr Stockigt said, Zelenka’s music is being performed more and more these days. The Choir can take some satisfaction that it has given Sydney audiences an opportunity to hear it performed.