Jozef Zeidler (1744-1806) and Antoni Habel (1760-1831) are major figures in the history of Polish classical music. And yet they’re almost ciphers.
Almost nothing is known of Zeidler’s life or career. He wrote in the style of Mozart and Haydn, earning him the nickname “the Polish Mozart.”
Zeidler’s Mass in D major does have a Mozartian quality to it. The choruses and the solos are quite tuneful, with nicely shaped and balanced phrases.
But it’s not in the league of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. Rather, this work reminded me more of Mozart’s Missa Brevis in F major, K.192. Zeidler’s mass is modest in scope, with only a few contrapuntal sections. Still, it’s an attractive work and an effective setting of the text.
The performance is good, but not great. The soprano soloist seemed to struggle at times. There also wasn’t a great deal of dynamic contrast. I couldn’t tell if that was the performance or the recording.
Antoni Habel was a violinist with a small output of compositions. More is known of his life than Zeidler — but not much more.
Habel’s Symphony in D major resembles those of middle career Haydn. The string orchestra is augmented by flutes, oboes, and f horns.
The symphony is four-movement work. There’s no slow introduction — it begins right with the main theme. As with Haydn, Habel carefully crafts his themes so they are easy to follow through the work.
As with the Zeidler, the performance had a few issues. The strings lacked precision in some of their attacks. The solo cello in the second movement sounded a little pinched.
These are interesting works, and give some insight into the origins of Poland’s classical music tradition. But as I listened, I kept wondering what they would have sounded like with a major orchestra and symphony chorus performing them.
Jozef Zeidler: Missa in D
Antoni Habel: Symphony in D major
Sinfonietta Cracovia; Polski Chor Kameralny
Marcin Nalecz-Niesioeowski, conductor