Hana Blažiková, Lucile Richardot, Kamila Mazalová, Václav Čížek, Stephan MacLeod SAATB, Collegium Vocale 1704, Collegium 1704, Václav Luks
St. Francis Xavier held a special place in the liturgy of the Dresden court on account of his being the “Holy Patron” of Maria Josepha (Austrian-born wife of August II, “the Strong”). The two works on this magnificent recording date from 1729 and most likely represent Zelenka laying out his wares in the hope of being officially appointed as successor to the recently deceased Kapellmeister, Johann David Heinichen. As Jan Stockigt’s typically detailed notes explain, even without a Credo setting, the mass rivals anything else he wrote in terms of sheer scale, and his setting of the litany is similarly expansive; whether Heinichen’s demise was seen by the court accountants as a financial blessing, or whether musical fashion was changing around him, Zelenka did not secure promotion… Be that as it may, both of these pieces are most welcome to the catalogue, in stunning performances from soloists, choir and orchestra alike; I have to concur entirely with Stockigt’s highlighting the “Quoniam” of the mass as an absolutely outstanding piece of writing – three instrumental groups alternating with the four solo voices and added (4!) trumpets and drums for the ritornelli. The edition is now available from Bärenreiter Praha, so I hope there will be a spate of performances around the world!