Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745)

Zelenka was engaged as violone player at the Saxon court in 1710. From 1716 to 1719, he took composition lessons from Johann Joseph Fux in Vienna. After the death of August the Strong in 1733, he unsuccessfully tried to become capellmeister in Dresden.

Although – or perhaps because? – his works were very original and unconventional for his day, Zelenka was not adequately appreciated during his lifetime by the Saxon court in Dresden, for whom he wrote countless sacred works. He was hired there solely as court composer and “Kirchen-Compositeur.”

Zelenka's masses, in particular, testify to an innovative spirit with a fine sensitivity for drama and bold harmonies. No wonder that Johann Sebastian Bach, who was six years younger, had works by Zelenka in his library, and admired the composer. Today, Zelenka ranks next to Bach and Handel in church music as a giant both idiosyncratic and autonomous.

The “Breitkopf Urtext” editions of Zelenka's masses and litanies are all based on the musical text of the Denkmäler edition “Das Erbe deutscher Musik,” partly revised for the new editions. Numerous CD recordings confirm the great interest of the musical world in the works of the Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka.