Lenten Music: Jan Dismas Zelenka’s ‘Miserere’

The Jesuit educated Czech Catholic composer Jan Zelenka, sometimes called the “Catholic Bach,”* is too little known. Worthy to be listed alongside his contemporaries, Bach, Händel, Vivaldi and Telemann, his music presents fine specimens of glorious Baroque counterpoint.

Damian Thompson has an informative and entertaining piece on him in the U.K. Spectator that’s worth reading — complete, though it be, with Thompson’s personal eccentricities. And Robert R. Reilly penned an article on him for Crisis Magazine.

Below is a Miserere composed by Zelenka, the opening strains of which remind me of a Mozart piece I cannot seem to identify.

* There is another man known as “The Catholic Bach.” In his case, the title is more literal, since he is Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena Bach.

  • Alyosha Karamazov

    The linked article by Robert R. Reilly quotes Zelenka’s dedication at the front of his Missa Dei Patris:

    “Mass in honor of God our Father, the almighty God, Creator of all Things, the Most Sublime and Best Father. Dedicated to him in deep humility, submissive veneration and profound adoration with a contrite and humble heart which He will not despise, by His most lowly, most humble and most unworthy creature, Jan Dismas Zelenka.”

    Here is that Mass: