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Fanfare Magazine: 43:4 (03-04/2020) 
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Nibiru 01612231

Code-barres / Barcode :  8595056601612

Reviewer: David Reznick

Jan Dismas Zelinka (1679–1745), an unknown name 20 years ago, has been knocking at the door of the Great Composers’ Union demanding to be signed up. With only two CDs available, perhaps he needed more evidence of his eligibility. Well, here it comes. We are about to be hit with a Zelenka tidal wave, courtesy of the Czech label Nibiru, a company that distinguishes itself before you even extract the disc from the case by virtue of its beautifully designed visuals and its program notes (in five languages) that would almost pass muster as a Master’s thesis all by themselves. This disc is one of three, separately released, that documents three cycles of Psalm settings for use at Vespers services. Even if you have heard a bit of Zelenka here and there, I don’t think you’ll be prepared for what you’ll experience here. A look at his dates gives you a hint of his storied contemporaries; therefore you may wonder whether he was a follower of Bach, or Handel, or Scarlatti, or Telemann—actually, some people called him “The Bohemian Bach.” But I’m willing to believe that in a parallel world, Bach is known as “The German Zelenka.” Because when you start to listen, the first thing that you notice is his totally unique, original voice. As well as his strikingly original harmony and the aptness of his Biblical settings, he does something all his own: eschewing four- and eight-bar phrases, he delays the resolution of his cadences to the point that he seems to be floating to some unknown destination, with one false resolution after another—but of course, he always finds the resolution that seems inevitable. I find this thrilling, and I’ll be coming back to it again and again.

I can only hope that this will be the first of many Zelenka releases. And, if Nibiru is, even now, planning this, I have a special request. The Concise Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians states that Zelenka is the composer of an overture entitled Hypocondria. Please, please deliver this to a waiting world.


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