Zelenka: Six Settings of “Ave regina coelorum” (ZWV 128)

Edited by Frederic Kiernan
Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 204
xvii+2+64pp
ISBN 978-1-9872-0053-9
A-R Editions, Inc. $120.00

This small volume is an excellent guide to how differently a single composer can treat exactly the same text; even the two settings with matching scoring are quite different – while one is in common time, the other is in triple time. Zelenka’s church music is becoming better known through editions and recordings and I hope fans of his music with perhaps more modest forces at their disposal than some of the concerted masses require will explore Kiernan’s editions of these Marian antiphon settings.

That said, the book could have been even shorter, had all the written-out colla parte instruments been left out. Kiernan opts to drop the oboes out in solo passages in the second setting, yet has the very short five-bar trio section in the first doubled by strings. We are told that the viola part for no. 2 is extracted from the bass line, and yet the music in the first bar is not the same (the viola actually doubles the violins). The added basso ripieno part in nos. 2 and 5 (essentially so that the cello does not play along with the solo passages, some of which are in treble clef anyway) could surely just have been marked “[senza basso]”, and the quaver in bar 10 of no. 2 is too prescriptive – the voices above hold the same note for a full crotchet. In fact, that is probably my overriding impression of the edition as a whole – it is great to have the music available in modern notation, but it could have been done in a simpler fashion without detriment.

Brian Clark