Roberta Mameli - soprano (Giunone), Marie Fajtová - soprano (Amore), Gabriela Eibenová - soprano (Venere), Hana Blažíková - soprano (Terra), Kai Wessel - alto (Imeneo)
Adam Viktora - conductor
Il Diamante - the ultimate secular work of Jan Dismas Zelenka
If we speak about the late works of Jan Dismas Zelenka, we usually refer to his fascinating last masses, oratorios or litanies, which have today finally acquired the attention and acclaim they so fully deserve. With sacred music always being the focal point of Zelenka's work, the violone playing composer who was born in Bohemia was eventually appointed Kirchen Compositeur in 1735 after having spent over twenty years as "the most humble and loyal servant" at the royal court in Dresden. Still, among his late works we also find the Serenata ZWV 177 from 1737, another major work which, thanks to the newly discovered printed libretto, now has the title Il Diamante. It was one of the few, and possibly also the last, secular vocal composition Zelenka wrote for the Dresden court, and crowns the line of his work as a music dramatist. This began with his earliest known composition, music to the school play Via laureata (1704), which has unfortunately not survived. The same line of work also includes the melodrama Sub olea pacis written for the celebrations in Prague in 1723, a collection of Italian arias composed ten years later, and three Italian oratorios, the last two of which - Gesu al Calvario (1735) and I penitenti al Sepolcro del Redentore (1736) - preceded the composition of the serenata.
Il Diamante is the only known contribution Zelenka made to the genre of serenata. A typical feature of serenata in the first half of the 18th century was its occasional, usually congratulatory purpose, and were mostly vocal-instrumental compositions written to Italian texts, situated somewhere between the cantata and the opera. They were very popular with the royal and noble courts of Europe, usually accompanying celebrations or other important events in the lives of monarchs and nobility. ...
Zelenka writing a great secular work for Dresden court society late in his life; Zelenka's music being conducted by Hasse and sung by Faustina; Zelenka's music as a part of a politically important ceremonial occasion at court - none of this corresponds with the traditional image of Zelenka as an overshadowed composer held in low esteem by the court; nothing can be more far from the truth according to newly found sources, one of which has a contemporary of Zelenka describing him as the "perfect Virtuoso", whose music gives a "foretaste of heavenly pleasure".
With this in mind we can look forward to a new, revised way of looking at the greatest baroque composer from Bohemia. Furthermore, we can enjoy his incredible music - and rejoice over the new diamond discovered amongst Zelenka's works.
(Jóhannes Ágústsson - Václav Kapsa, Nibiru Records)