Interlude: At the side of the road

This morning, I was listening to Jakub Jozef Orlinski’s remarkable new album, Anima Aeterna, which not surprisingly for this gifted young countertenor, features a wealth of Baroque masterpieces. On this album, however, Jakub has drawn from the music of Baroque composers who, for lack of a better phrase, have been left by the side of the road. Of course, he leads with his compatriot, Jan Dismas Zelenka, considered in his day to rival Bach’s mastery of counterpoint. Works by Johann Joseph Fux, Francisco Antonio de Almedia, Bartolomeo Nucci and Gennaro Manna also appear on the album. We first got our glimpse of Jakub when he was still a student at Julliard, during the Eastern Regionals of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions and then later that spring in the title role of Jonathan Dove’s Flight (more about that much later in this blog). This month he returns to the Met to debut Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice in what is for me the most eagerly awaited opera of the season.

Jakub’s album has inspired me to include as a running interlude, those composers who for one reason or another have been left on the side of the road in this blog. Zelenka is the first of these. He wrote two oratorios based on Psalm 50, the famous Miserere mei that we first encountered with Josquin and Allegri back in the Rennaisance. While his lengthier D Minor version (ZWV 56) garners the headlines for its innovative counterpoint and daring harmonies, I prefer the propulsive and utterly devestating C Minor version (ZWV 57).

Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum dele iniquitatem meam

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my inequity.

Jan Dismas Zelenka, Misrerere in C Minor, ZWV 57: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA1RQAMv9tc