The Capriccios of Zelenka

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745), a Bohemian born composer who held positions at the Royal Court in Dresden during the first half of the 18th century, wrote a number of works titled “Capriccio” with amazing horn parts.  I was first introduced to his music in a Baroque era seminar during graduate school, and like most horn players, I was awed by the virtuosic writing, especially in the high register.  Dresden during the 17th and 18th centuries had an incredibly rich musical establishment, with well known virtuosos on nearly every instrument residing there.  Among these were the horn players J.A. Fischer, F.A. Samm, the brothers Johann Adam Schindler and Andreas Schindler, and Anton Hampel.  For more detailed information on horn players and horn music at Dresden, I highly recommend Thomas Hiebert’s dissertation,”The Horn in Early Eighteenth-Century Dresden: The Players and Their Repertory,” available from the IHS Thesis Lending Library.

Getting back to Zelenka’s Capriccios, one of my favorite recordings is by the Camerata Bern, with Barry Tuckwell and Robert Routch on horn.  Here are a few clips from that recording to whet your appetite.  They are from the first and third movements of the Capriccio in D Major, ZWV 182.

The range demands of these works are so extreme that I have heard that Barry Tuckwell had Paxman build him a descant in B-flat and high B-flat to use on this recording.  At any rate, these are great pieces – check them out.

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