2012-2013 Season

Concert 1

October 28, 2012 – 7pm

Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
Nassau Street North, Winnipeg, MB [map]

Missa votiva zwv 18 – Jan Dismas Zelenka
Cantata BWV 80 Ein feste Burg/A Mighty Fortress – J.S. Bach


Joan Clark, Marni Enns, Zohreh Gervais, Sarah Kirsch, Kirsten Schellenberg, Aaron Hutton, Stephen Haiko, Paul Wiens

With MusicBarock Ensemble

Program Notes: Missa votiva ZWV 18

If Jan Dismas Zelenka’s music is still not familiar to Canzona’s audience, after hearing his Mass votiva ZWV 18, one will wonder how is it possible that this Baroque master has not enjoyed greater esteem similar to that of J.S. Bach and G.F Handel.  The sacred choral works of Jan Dismas Zelenka never cease to amaze.  Although it is of remarkably high quality, his late works are absolute masterpieces.  Zelenka is known to have reached his peak with these late works.  Composed in 1739, when Zelenka was at the mature age of 60, his Missa votiva ZWV18 is truly a choral gem.

What makes this Mass special is the fact that it was not a commissioned piece, and that it was written with special intent and not necessarily to be performed according to the traditional catholic liturgical calendar.  Zelenka had suffered at least two major bouts of illness during the 1730s.  During a period of severe ill health in 1739, he vowed that he would compose a mass upon his recovery and the Missa votiva was the result.  Zelenka’s deep religious devotion is evident in this sacred work.  He placed a quotation from Psalm 115 at the beginning of the work, which reads:  “Vota mea Domino reddam coram omni populo ejus” (I will fulfill my vows to the Lord, before all his people).  At the conclusion of the score, Zelenka confirms his vow by adding the following note:  “Missam hanc Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam ex voto posuit JD Zelenka post recuperatam Deo Fautore Salutem” (J. D. Zelenka offered this votive mass to the greater glory of God after recovering his health with the help of God).  The Missa votiva has something in common with Beethoven’s string quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, in that both works were written as prayers of thanksgiving after their respective composers’ recovery from illness and both works are unknown masterpieces.

The Missa votiva is a large-scale composition in the style of Neopolitan mass in which the five parts of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) were further subdivided into movements.  The music of the following movements contains contrasting musical styles and scoring.  The choral movements display the full spectrum of the musical style of the time.  Zelenka sets many of the arias in the galant operatic style of the day, while at the same time employs choruses in the concerto style.  As well, some choruses have elements of the much-revered stile antico.

The choral body of this mass is exemplary.  The music of the opening Kyrie is jubilant and contains Vivaldian energy.  J.S. Bach would have loved the symmetry Zelenka utilized in this mass.  The Vivace heard in the opening Kyrie returns in the closing section of the opening Kyrie and also makes a return in the closing Dona nobis pacem.  The elaborate Gloria is very reminiscent of Zelenka’s concerto con molti instromenti ZWV 186 in G and the chorus Gratias agimus tibi (We give Thee thanks) is uplifting.  The choral repetitions of the Gratias agimus tibi text are the heart of this remarkable sacred work.  The powerful culmination and substance of the Crucifixus fugue delivers a moment of aural rapture.   The beautiful arias for soprano and alto are jubilant and celebratory.  They reflect the vocal qualities of the Italian-trained castratos who first performed this work.  Although the alto aria ‘Et incarnatus est’ is somber, it is simply a gorgeous solo aria.  The magnificent, robust solo aria for bass ‘Quonium tu solus sanctus’ contains elements of the galant opera style and is full of great vigour.

Without a doubt, the Missa votiva is yet another of Zelenka’s choral masterpieces.  His late mass compositions have unanimously reached a level of musical maturity and inspiration that is not heard in any of his contemporaries.  In the Missa votiva we hear a composer that is confident in his writing and completely in command.  His extraordinary and unconventional turns of harmony are a joy to hear.  His affinity for fugal writing is almost superhuman and infectious to the ear.  One can only hope that more of Zelenka’s choral music will be heard and recorded in the future.

Notes by Mario Fonseca

Program Notes: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80

When the Bach family moved to Leipzig in the spring of 1723, J.S. Bach became the Thomaskantor at the St. Thomas Church and the St. Nicholas Church.  Many of his finest choral works such as half of his cantatas, St. John Passion and the Christmas Oratoriowould be heard in Leipzig.  Bach was not limited to performing cantatas by other composers; however, it is known that he wrote over 300 cantatas but only about 200 of them survive.  His prolific cantata writing came as a result of writing at least one cantata per week since his arrival in Leipzig.  By 1727 Bach had assembled at least three cycles of cantatas.

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80 is one of his best known cantatas and is one of the best known of  Martin Luther‘s hymns.  “A Mighty Fortress” is one of the beloved hymns by Luther and is the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation”.  It is one of the many church cantatas composed for Reformation day on October 31 and was first performed during the 1727-31 period.  It is fitting that Canzona’s performance falls on Reformation Sunday on this year’s calendar. This cantata speaks significantly of Bach regarding his Christian faith.  The history of this cantata is convoluted.  It apparently started as a Lenten cantata during 1715, but Bach expanded it for use at the Festival that year.  Debate over the instrumentation has also been an issue for Bach scholars.  This is heavily precipitated by the fact that the original score and parts have been lost.  The version known today comes from a copy made by Bach’s pupil and son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnickol.  However, further confusion is encountered when trumpet and timpani parts composed by Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, found their way into the first printing of the work.  Nevertheless, the cantata is one of the best that he wrote.  It is a monumental choral work.

The opening chorus is one of Bach’s brilliant examples of contrapuntal writing.  Two delightful, sublime duets are found here and are the cornerstone of this cantata.  The second movement duet for soprano and bass is a beautiful display of great musical brilliance.  In the seventh movement, the duet is probably the finest music in the cantata.  The spirituality of the hymn is exceptionally explored in the pastoral alto and tenor duet with obliggato oboe da caccia and violin accompaniment.  The chorales are as always sublime and soulful, especially in the last chorale, which contains the familiar melody of the hymn that is so well known today.

Notes by Mario Fonseca

Concert 2

March 24, 2013 – 7pm

Westminster United Church
745 Westminster Avenue, Winnipeg, MB [map]

St. John Passion BWV 245 – J.S. Bach


Evangelist: Jan van der Hooft

Christ: Mel Braun

Pilate: Kris Kornelsen

Peter: Stephen Haiko
Soprano: Marni Enns, Sarah Kirsch

Alto: Kirsten Schellenberg
Tenor: Aaron Hutton

Bass: Victor Engbrecht

With MusicBarock Ensemble

Program Notes: St. John Passion BWV 245

With Bach’s appointment as music director in Leipzig in the spring of 1723, he was responsible for conducting a cantata every Sunday at either St. Thomas or St. Nikolas Church. This responsibility led the composition of the great cantata cycles during the next six years. The exception to this routine was the Sundays during Advent and Lent, when no cantatas were performed. These periods of austerity, and repose for the musicians, were followed by the high feast days that required elaborate music for several consecutive days. These high feast days not only required cantatas but other types of music, most importantly the oratorio and passion. The first of these large-scale works was the St. John Passion, composed at the end of Bach’s first year in Leipzig, for Easter 1724. It was performed again in 1725, with five new movements. Bach could have chosen to compose an oratorio on the subject of the passion, which was fashionable at the time. Instead, he chose to compose a passion, as he was to do again for Easter 1727, when he composed a second and more expansive Passion on the St. Matthew gospel. Although influenced strongly by the oratorio, these works are not oratorios but passions.

The Passion developed from the liturgical practice of reading the passion story during Mass on Good Friday as the gospel reading. During the Middle Ages, the passion was sung in Gregorian chant, often performed in a semi-dramatic manner with a singer for Christ, for Pilate and for the narrator and the chorus for the crowd. Beginning in the late 15thcentury, the passages sung by the crowd, or turba, were set polyphonically (as in the passions of Victoria). After the Reformation, passions were composed in German, with chorales introduced at appropriate points in the action to allow the congregation to participate in the story. The development of the opera, oratorio and cantata in the 17th century resulted in the development of a new type of passion that resembled the oratorio, by employing recitative, arias, and choruses. Because the biblical prose texts were not ideally suited to this type of passion, particularly for arias, new poetic texts were added which commented upon the narrative. The two surviving passions of Bach, therefore, represent the culmination of this oratorio influence. Both are oratorio passions containing the complete biblical narrative as found in the gospels of St. John and St. Matthew respectively. However, the biblical narrative has been augmented by the addition of devotional chorales, to be sung by the congregation, and by free meditative poetry for arias, to be sung by soloists from the choir.

The origins of the texts in Bach’s St. John’s Passion determine the musical setting. The biblical narrative sung by the narrator, as well as the words of Christ, Pilate and Peter, are set as recitative accompanied simply by the basso continuo. Its objective, declamatory style was considered ideal for declaiming the holy Gospel. Only on occasion is the recitative extended through the use of lyrical passages, known as arioso, at the end of certain important passages. The free poetic verse, which comments upon the action in a personal way, accounts for the arias and the accompanied recitatives.

As in the contemporary opera seria, the aria texts consist of two short stanzas or strophes, the first to be repeated after the second, creating a large-scale ternary form known as the da capo aria. These are set in an elaborate manner with internal text repetitions, ritornellos (instrumental interludes), and coloraturas (melismatic passages) and are accompanied by the orchestra and/or solo instruments.

The diverse origins of the chorus account for the diverse treatment of the choirs: 1. the turba choruses within the biblical narrative set in a concise, and often extremely dramatic manner, with dissonant counterpoint and furious orchestral accompaniment; 2. the chorales sung by the choir and the congregation, set in a simple four-part chordal harmony; 3. the poetic texts sung by the choir, either incorporated into the da capo arias or used for the monumental choruses at the beginning and end, that frame the work, like gigantic pillars. In the opening chorus, Bach transforms the modest prayer for enlightenment, into a massive choral fresco depicting “the Glory of God that fills the entire Earth”. In the closing chorus Bach confronts the contradictions of Good Friday Eve, the sorrow over the death of Jesus and the relief that the suffering of Christ are at an end, by writing a choral lament/lullaby – a formula that he would repeat in the St. Matthew Passion. In the St. John Passion, a final chorale is added, allowing the congregation to affirm their belief that through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ they will attain paradise.

Kurt Markstrom

News Releases

March 24, 2013

CANZONA, Winnipeg’s Baroque Vocal Ensemble, ends season with a monumental masterwork.

Winnipeg, MB – Canzona will close its 24th season on Sunday, March 24th, in Westminster United Church, performing J.S. Bach’s dramatic oratorio St. John Passion.

During the first winter that Bach was responsible for church music at the St. Thomas & St. Nicholas churches in Leipzig, he composed the St. John Passion for the Good Friday Vespers services of 1724.

“The St. John Passion is one of J.S. Bach’s leading masterpieces,” says Henry Engbrecht, Artistic Director and Conductor. “It is highly dramatic because of the many emotional ‘crowd’ choruses. There are beautiful solo arias for all voices, and stirring chorales (the people’s hymns) that provide a frequent change of pace.” The audience will have the opportunity to sing along in two of these hymns.

Joining the Choir as soloist is Winnipeg baritone Mel Braun. Well known as a performer in the musical community, Mr. Braun also heads up the vocal program at the University of Manitoba Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music. Several of Canzona’s ‘rising stars’ have trained under

Mr. Braun and welcome the opportunity to sing with him in this production. Canzona’s soloists in this production include Jan van der Hooft, Kris Kornelson, Stephen Haiko, Marni Enns, Sarah Kirsch, Kirsten Schellenberg, Aaron Hutton and Victor Engbrecht. Local baroque orchestra MusikBarock will once again accompany the Choir in the splendid acoustics of Westminster United Church.

Canzona remains committed to providing opportunities for young singers to perform together in a high-art ensemble together with seasoned artists and a professional orchestral accompaniment.

Canzona: St. John Passion BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Henry Engbrecht, Artistic Director & Conductor
7:00 p.m., Sunday, 24 March 2013
Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland
Tickets: adults $25; seniors $22; students $12;
available at McNally Robinson Booksellers,
by calling Canzona at (204)942-1917, and at the door.

Visit canzonachoir.com or email info@canzonachoir.com
Media inquiries: Elise Anderson at (204) 284-9926

October 28, 2012

CANZONA, Winnipeg’s Baroque Vocal Ensemble opens season with a Manitoba first.

Winnipeg, MB — Canzona opens its 24th season on Sunday, October 28th, with the Manitoba premiere performance of ‘Missa votiva’ (ZWV 18), a glorious, rediscovered work by Jan Dismas Zelenka. Also on the program is Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Cantata Ein feste Burg’ (A Mighty Fortress, BWV 80). Dr. Elroy Friesen, Director of Choral Studies at the University of Manitoba, will lead the Choir in this first performance of the 2012/13 season.

Jan Dismas Zelenka is considered the most important Czech Baroque composer. Held in high esteem by contemporaries Bach and Telemann, his extraordinary music had, for the most part, been buried and long forgotten until a resurgence of his works in the 1960s resulted in their re-publication. ‘Missa votiva’ (ZWV 18) was written as an expression of thanks for the composer’s recovery from a serious illness. Canzona is presenting this impressive although virtually unknown work to a Manitoba audience for the first time.

J.S. Bach composed ‘Cantata Ein feste Burg’ (A Mighty Fortress, BWV 80) for Reformation Sunday and it was first performed in 1727. Traditionally held on October 31st, Reformation Sunday is now recognized on the last Sunday in October. A fitting choice for this concert as it too falls on the same feast day.

Local baroque orchestra MusikBarock will accompany the Choir in the splendid acoustics of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church. Each season Canzona showcases talented young artists, and several ‘rising stars’ from last year are returning to perform alongside veteran soloists Kirsten Schellenberg and Marni Enns.

Canzona remains committed to providing opportunities for young singers to perform together in a high-art ensemble together with seasoned artists and a professional orchestral accompaniment.

September 12, 2012

CANZONA, Winnipeg’s baroque choir, announces 2012/13 season

Winnipeg, MB — Canzona, Winnipeg’s baroque choir, is pleased to announce its 24th season with a program that includes a well-known masterwork of the Baroque era, as well as an exciting Manitoba premiere performance.

Opening concert works include Jan Dismas Zelenka’s ‘Missa votiva’ (ZWV 18) and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata ‘Ein feste Burg’ (A Mighty Fortress, BWV 80). Guest conductor Dr. Elroy Friesen, Director of Choral Studies at the University of Manitoba, will lead the Choir in this first performance of the 2012/13 season. The second concert, which will be conducted by Artistic Director Henry Engbrecht, will present J.S. Bach’s sacred oratorio, ‘St. John Passion’ (BWV 245).

Local baroque orchestra MusikBarock will once again accompany the Choir in the splendid acoustics of both Crescent Fort Rouge and Westminster United Churches. Each season Canzona showcases talented young artists, and several ‘rising stars’ from last season are returning to perform alongside veteran soloists Kirsten Schellenberg, Marni Enns and Victor Engbrecht.

Sunday, 28 October 2012 / Zelenka’s ‘Missa votiva’ ZWV 18 was written as an expression of thanks for the composer’s recovery from a serious illness. This impressive, virtually unknown work, receives its Manitoba premiere performance in Canzona’s season opener at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church. Also on the program is Bach’s Cantata ‘Ein feste Burg’ (A Mighty Fortress, BWV 80). This cantata, written for Reformation Sunday and first performed on October 31 in 1727, is a fitting choice for this concert since it too falls on the same feast day.

Sunday, 24 March 2013 / Bach’s ‘St. John Passion’ is a leading work of the Baroque era. Last performed by Canzona in 2004, this dramatic and moving oratorio closes the season at Westminster United Church.


Canzona’s inspired collaborations with MusikBarock have brought to life many top quality productions. The oratorios of Bach and Handel are at the centre of the repertoire, while the lesser known baroque works have also been rendered — among them Zelenka’s ‘Missa Dei Filii,’ Andre Campra’s ‘Requiem’ and Roman’s ‘Swedish Mass.’ Canzona remains committed to providing opportunities for young singers to perform together in a high-art ensemble alongside seasoned artists and with a professional orchestral accompaniment.

Canzona 2012/13 Season Henry Engbrecht, Artistic Director

Season Pass: $40 / available only by calling Canzona at (204) 942-1917. Casual tickets: adults $25; seniors $22; students $12; available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, by calling Canzona at (204) 942-1917, and at the door. Both concerts start at 7:00 p.m.

Visit canzonachoir.com or email info@canzonachoir.com

Media inquiries: Elise Anderson at (204) 284-9926