If we speak about the late works of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) we usually refer to his fascinating last masses, oratorios or litanies, which have today finally acquired the attention and acclaim they fully deserve. But among his late works we also find some secular vocal compositions as the serenata “Il Diamante” and a collection of “Italian arias”. Throughout the 1720s Zelenka composed mainly sacred music for the Catholic church; he may not have had the opportunity to write any “Italian music”. After Johann David Heinichen's death Zelenka petitioned officially for the post of Kapellmeister in 1733, writing a set of eight Italian arias in an attempt to demonstrate his ability to compose in a galant, secular style, as the court wished to re-establish opera in Dresden.
It has to be admitted that the surviving arias – even though they are musical masterpieces – reflect a certain negligence of the standard principles of the theatrical style, which may have been difficult or, more likely, unimportant for a composer who had devoted his life to church music. Yet in spite of this, these unorthodox arias represent a good example of Zelenka’s unique style.
The Prague based Ensemble Tourbillon and Petr Wagner present the first complete recording of the eight Italian arias. Singers are Czech soprano star Hana Blazikova (five arias) assisted by the promising mezzo-soprano Marketa Cukrova (two arias) and the Slovakian bass Tomas Selc (one aria).