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GRAMOPHONE (08 / 2012)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

Collegium 1704 and its director Václav Luks have made several fine recordings of Zelenkas sacred music for Dresdens Catholic court chapel. Now they turn their attention to music written for Matins during Holy Week 1722 and 1723. The double album commences with the first of Zelenkas several Lamentations of Jeremiah (ZWV53), created for Maundy Thursday 1722: bass soloist Marián Krejčĺk gives a contoured performance, accompanied by warmly emotive orchestral playing; it is an eloquent alternative to the smaller-scale and sensitive recording by Michael George (a Hyperion disc that also includes another two Lamentations for Good Friday and Easter Eve, sung by Michael Chance and John Mark Ainsley respectively 7/91 R ).

Krejčĺks sincere lamentation flows directly into the Responsoria pro Hebdomada Sancta (ZWV55), three sets of nine Responses that were started by Zelenka in 1722 but not completed until a year later. The Responses are diligently preceded by appropriate plainchant Lessons, supervised by tenor Hasan El-Dunia but shared between almost all of the choirs excellent male voices. During the Maundy Thursday responses, Tristis est anima mea (Response II) is typical of Zelenkas potent use of contrast, with doleful passages for solo voices juxtaposed with finely crafted contrapuntal choral sections. In Response III there is poignant word-setting of poetic Biblical texts familiar to us from the epicentre of Handels Messiah (Zelenkas treatment of by his stripes we are healed does not suffer from the comparison). Luks chooses the plangent quality of a vocal octet (about half the overall choir) for some descriptive madrigalian pieces such as the eloquent music quoting Christs prophecy that one of his disciples would betray him (highly appropriate for Maundy Thursday, of course). The Good Friday Responses present moments of powerful tension, such as the choral description of earthquakes and opening graves in the aftermath of the Crucifixion (Response II, Velum templi scissum est). The Responses for Holy Saturday evoke contemplation, such as the solemnly beautiful final Response (Sepulto Domino), which is sung breathtakingly by Collegium Vocale 1704. This compassionately stylish recording confirms Zelenkas Responsoria pro Hebdomada Sancta as a devout masterpiece.

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