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Mikołaj Zieleński (ca.1550 - post 1616)

The MIDI currently played is Viderunt omnes fines Terrae

Following note comes from CD record with Zieleński's music. I could not find it's author, otherwise I would mention his/her name there.

   "Little is known today about the life and work of Mikołaj Zieleński, who lived in the turn of the 17th century, indeed too little, considering the volume of his work and its historical significance. The fragmentary information we have about him today allows us to reconstruct but a very fragmentary biographical sketch about this composer. The circumstances in which his exceptional talent was born are a matter of many hypotheses and conjectures. The music created thanks to his exceptional gift allowed Zieleński to take a place in the history of music whereby he is even regarded as the best Polish composer before Chopin. Szymon Skorowolski, a historian contemporary to Zieleński, classified him as a member of a group of Polish composers who had been educated in Rome: in media Roma exercitati. This is a reference of great significance as it locates the fundamental source of his musical knowledge as a professional composer.
   Although the time of his musical education is not thus determined, it makes it possible to come up with a hypothesis as to the range of the Italian music masters under whom he had studied or whose music became familiar to him and indicates his possible connections within Italian musical circles. It is quite certain that Zieleński studied the work of Palestrina, whose compositions were recognized by the Council of Trent as the stylistic paragon and pattern of church polyphony. He also became familiar with the compositions of the Gabrieli's (Andrea and his nephew Giovanni) the two most eminent representatives of the Venetian school. Likewise, it cannot be excluded that the Polish composer acquainted himself with the ideas of the Florentine camerata contained in the Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna of V. Galilea (1581). Perhaps even the first attempt at accompanied monody made by Caccini and Galilea in their Le nuove musiche (1601) were not unfamiliar to him.

   All the above suppositions and conclusions seem to find corroboration in the two volumes of works by Mikołaj Zieleński, the Offertoria and the Communiones published in Venice in 1611 at the printing press of Jacob Vincentius. Both the frontispiece and the short preface published in this book state that Zieleński was a composer, organist and Kapelmeister at the court of the Polish primate Wojciech Baranowski. The status of the patron as well as the seat of his court, Łowicz, the capital of the archbishops and primates of Poland, and a well-known centre of musical life, were fully in keeping with the composer's rank as a musician.

   Unfortunately, these are the only known facts concerning the life and work of Mikołaj Zieleński. We know much more about his mastery as a composer from the works he managed to publish.

   Offertoria totius anni which make up the first volume, contain 56 seven - and eight voice compositions enriched with the accompaniment of instruments. Next to the Offertoria known surely after Gabrielli's Sacrae Simphoniae we find here a twelve voice Magnificat. The pieces in this collection are rendered in the concert style of the polychoral Venetian school. Let us emphasize that the eight voice texture became the most typical form of this type of composition at the beginning of the 17th century. By taking up this trend, Zieleński became one of the precursors of the innovational approach to the offertory.

   Communiones totius anni is composed of 57 (63? - A.J.) pieces differing as to the number of voices (from one to six) and as to the cast of performers. The majority among them are concertante motets transposed in nota contra notam and often alluding to the classical style of Palestrina. A considerable group of pieces consists of tercets, duets and accompanied monodies. The application of the monodic and concertante styles in the Communiones testifies to the innovational character of Mikołaj Zieleński as a composer."

Here are some samples from the Communiones:

   "Zieleński supplemented his Communiones... with three instrumental fantasies for the cornet, bassoon with the organ or for the violin and the viola with the organ. Yet the texture of the fantasias differs little from his vocal pieces. The second fantasia resembles the ricercare in its form while the third fantasia. mainly homophonic, resembles more the canzona. The Magnificat which closes the cycle of the Offertoria is a composition most elaborate in its form, texture and style of performance. It was composed for twelve voices in three choirs. The mastery of polychoral style which the piece clearly exhibits brought to Mikołaj Zieleński the reputation of The most perfect Venetian in Poland."

Sequencing, arrangement and comments to the following MIDI files © Michał Małecki.

Domus mea Communione in festo Dedicationis Ecclesiae [V, 29]

Domus mea, domus orationis vocabitur, dicit Dominus: in ea omnis, qui petit, accepit; et qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur in ea omnis; qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur.

Communion for the Feast of the Dedication of the Church

My house shall be called the House of Prayer - says the Lord: In it, everyone, who asks, receives, he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the doors will be opened. In it, everyone, who asks, receives, he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the doors will be opened.

This four-part communion with organo is written in typically late-venetian style. Its melodic and harmonic aspect as well as the way of part-writting clearly show the new taste and aesthetics in composition. Composed as a kind of motetto, from the formal point of view it is divided in two parts filling the scheme ABB'. The first is rather polyphonic, with independent parts greatly embellished by the use of giorgia technique. The second eploys two "subchoruses": high and low, singing in dialog with each other - typical solution in that kind of music. The melodics here is also embellished, but it sounds much more baroque than before. Also in a few cases it directly reflects the meaning of text [e.g. et pulsanti - the short-value notes in ascending and descending diatonic 'a due' passages are imitating the sound of knocking to the door]. The latter part is repeted once again with changed ending. I've instrumented that communione despite of composers advice [soli debent cantare cum organo sine instrumenti] using a consort of recorders with Bassus part reinforced by dulcian [here - bassoon]. The patitura pro organo [maintained here without de-embellishing, though in a little different form if compared to the source] is realized on harpsichord for better clarity of sound.

Viderunt omnes fines Terrae Communione in Festo ...

Viderunt omnes fines terrae salutare Dei nostri, Alleluia!

"Viderunt omnes" is a Christmas four-part motet. Its texture is, except Alleluia section, dense and generaly polyphonic, which remains rather Renaissance than Baroque style and aesthetics. This version is a good example of virtuoso compositon - first section [Viderunt omnes fines terrae] contains a lot of giorgia embelishments - this amount and character of diatonic passages makes performance maintainig right tempo extraordinarly difficult. In general, the question of choosing apropirate tempi and proportions between them is not an easy one in this case. The whole motet [except first part of Alleuia] is in tempus imperfectum [something like 2/2] with no change of mensura between Viderunt omnes... section fulfilled with giorgias and much more simple section salutare Dei... almost without embelishements. In case of this virtuoso version, it could seem not to be a problem: Despite of a slow motion of long-valued notes, giorgias make the impression of relatively fast tempo. But the simplified version for chorus and instruments has no embelishements, and its mensural indications remains unchanged. It is a well-known practice to apply a diminution [shortening by half all note values] with no indication in the score, but I can't really find out, if it was in that case. Again there is the same problem with mentioned above first section of Alleluia. It is in tempus perfectum diminutum [simplifying 3/4], but this time that diminution ratio [dvision by half] indicated in the score seems to be enough only in virtuoso version. In the other one it should be twice as big as indicated, i.e. the original vaue of notes should be divided by fourth, or another words in proportio quadrupla. Despite of that all doubds I've decided to use one pulse of semibreves in the whole composition an a relatively fast tepo in general - I hope the result meets the historical performing practice. The Christmas melody should sound joyfully, shouldn't it? In scoring and instumentation I can not this time override composer's demandings - vocal parts are played on a harpsichord, and partitura pro organo on a positif organ 4' [here a GM whistle shifted an octave higher].

Magna est gloria Eius Communione in Festo Sanctum Mattheum

Magna est gloria Eius in salutari Tuo, gloriam et magnum decorem super eum, Domine.

Communione for the Feast of Saint Matheo.

This communion is composed in easy-recognizable from of one-choir motetto from San Marco, Venice. A lot of composition of that type was created during XVI century by Maestri di Capellae of that famous church. Despite of the one-choir scoring, the significant influence of venetian polychoral technique ist to be noticed here. Though I've decided to use two "Bc" instruments, each for appropirate choir [harpsichord for recorder consort, organo 2' for sackbutt consort] doubling their parts, despite of the use of a "general" organo playing the partitura pro organo in the center. Thanks to that it becomes posible to reveal the chori spezatti effect, difficult to be heard in other cases, especially, when that communione is sung in typical concert. Here, again, the technique of dialoging choruses is employed, and morover, the technique of regrouping voices [at the words magna est, for example], which results in very interesting, organo-like effect of changing registers. The formal model consists of several sections employing different treating of parts: polyphonical or homophonical, with division in two "subchoruses" or without, with domination of some voices or with equal treating of each of them. This kind of construction shows perheaps most of the technical means of expression to be encountered in pieces of that type. This is the first version of that communione, intended for solists and organo, according to composers advice soli debent cantare cum organo sine instrumenti. Obviously, there is a second version of that communione, without all these incredibly sounding giorgia embelishements. As mentioned above, in scoring I've used two consorts [recorder and sackbutt], each with its own "continuo" instrument, harpsichord and organo 2' respectively. They are panned to achieve the best aniphonal effect of cori spezatti. The main partitura pro organo is played by organo 4', but it is provided rather as a piano reduction of the whole score and could be muted during playback.

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