I have heard one particular piece, Zelenka’s Gesù a Calvario, a few times, but the other day I found myself drawn into listening to one particular section: a duet for soprano and contralto, accompanied by two bassoons, violin, chalumeau (a clarinet predecessor) and continuo. I at first mis-heard the bassoons as a single French horn, which made the ornamentations seem especially wonderful. Even now that I know that it is the more agile bassoon, and a pair of them at that, which provides the filigree for this touching music, its classically temperate beauty combined with a plaintively beseeching melody, still make it worth sharing.
The subject of this lovely duet, “Santo amor, che tanto peni,” is the pain suffered by the crucified Jesus. (I scoured the internet in vain, I really did, trying to find an English translation. The CD booklet gives only the original Italian and a German version. And machine translators proved useless with the antique Italian, with some of them actually translating peni as penis.) It is, in fact, the loveliness of the music contrasted with the excruciating torture it describes (which, thanks to the sensitivity of the performers, needs no translation) that makes this so wondrous.
For the record: The soprano, Mary Magdalene, is Larissa Malikowa; the contralto, Mary of Clopas, a woman present at the crucifixion according to John, is Lena Susanne Norin; the bassoonists are Trudy vun der Wulp and Henriette Bakker; the conductor is Hermann Max with his ensemble, Das Kleine Konzert.