Czech ensemble performs Jan Dismas Zelenka’s forgotten Easter Mass

Adam Viktora, photo: archive of Ensemble Inégal

Recent years have seen a renewed interest in the work of great Baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka – in his day admired by contemporaries like Johann Sebastian Bach. His work was completely forgotten after his death, only rediscovered 150 years later by the Romantic-period composer Bedřich Smetana. Slowly, knowledge of Zelenka’s work emerged. Even now there is plenty to be discovered: Prague’s Ensemble Inégal recently performed Zelenka’s forgotten Easter Mass for the very first time.

Jan Dismas Zelenka
Adam Viktora told me more about Jan Dismas Zelenka’s place in music history.

“About 50 years ago he was absolutely unknown to the musical world. Twenty years ago, it looked like Czech Baroque history could still get along ‘without him’. But in 2013 it is clear that Zelenka is one of the most important personalities of the Baroque period.”

How was it that he was forgotten in the first place?

“Well, his music was the property of the elector of Saxony and the king of Poland: basically it was forbidden to copy or print this music. The embargo lasted until the 19th century when it was cancelled. Bedřich Smetana was the first among Czech musicians to perform his work on the concert stage.”

Tell me a little bit about the world premiere of the mass you just performed: how did that come together?

“The process appears simple: you just travel to the Dresden library, get a copy of the unknown music and you play it! But of course you have to know what you are doing! I think we have built a very strong ensemble focusing on Zelenka, so the rediscovery process is passionate and enjoyable.”

Adam Viktora,  photo: archive of Ensemble Inégal
How did the concert itself go and what were some of the reactions afterwards?

“The interest in Zelenka’s work and our performances is still growing. For the audience and for us at the performance of the great Missa Pastoralis I think experienced strong emotions. For me it was an honour and a wonderful experience I will never forget.”

If you’d like to learn more about Ensemble Inégal please visit