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Lyrita New Recording
Sarah Beth Briggs
Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
St Mark Passion (1786)
Maria Soulis (alto)
Bart Driessen (bass) – High Priest, Second False Witness,
Thomas Dewald – Evangelist
Ulf Bastlein – Jesus
Daniel Sans – Peter, Pilate, First False Witness
Simon Berg – Judas
Stefanie Dasch – servant
Europa Chor Akademie
Mendelssohn Sinfonia/Joshard Daus
rec. live, Die Glocke, Grosser Saal, Bremen, April 2006
Bach moved to Hamburg in 1768 and was asked to perform the
prevailingly popular “Old School” passions in the city’s
churches. Bach himself hadn’t been sure whether Hamburg preferred
passions “in the historical and old fashion with the Evangelist” as
he wrote in an anxious letter to Georg Michael Telemann “or
in the fashion of an oratorio.” The answer was the former;
the latter, the more modern way, involved contemporary texts.
St. Mark Passion was to be performed every four years and
versions exist from 1774, 1778, 1782 and 1786, the version
heard here. They are all based on Homilius’s St Mark’s Passion
in the abbreviated version C.P.E Bach had performed in Hamburg
in 1770. Adaptations invariably followed with duets and choruses
differing from one version to the next. By the 1786 revision
all the “free” (non biblical) movements were Bach’s own work,
albeit a number were reworkings of his own songs.
work is in essence therefore a pasticcio, grounded on Homilius’s
long accepted plan. Bach added variety to the succeeding
settings though in essence much was static, the new arias
and choruses creating the impression of a newly composed
work. It was an effective and practical piece of self-poaching
and enabled Bach to refashion the work with a minimum of
it is very securely in the old style. The song melodies are
in effect songs-with-orchestra and that’s true of the newly
composed arias as well, Bach rigidly apportioning the arias
to the old established schema. Bach tended here to jettison
the Baroque aria and embrace what Uwe Wolf calls in his booklet
notes calls “folk-like melodies.” Here therefore the “free” parts
are Bach’s own and the non-biblical texts taken from works
of Christoph Christian Sturm, a generation younger than Bach
but who died in the year that the St Mark Passion was written.
performance is a world premiere recording of the 1786 Passion.
The choruses are finely marshalled and controlled, and solo
contributions though variable are thoughtful and musical.
Mezzo Maria Soulis has a grave and perceptive approach to
the texts – her aria Nein, ich fliehe nicht dein Kreuz is
finely nuanced though her vibrato has a tendency to widen
too much. Sometimes C.P.E Bach will surprise us, as he does
with the unusually brisk and cheerful chorus Von Ewigkeit
warst du bestimmt. An example of Bach’s instrumental
flair comes in the aria [No.9] Durchdenk ich meines Heilands
Leben where we find the wind writing very personable
and more to the point strongly to the fore.
is a technical peculiarity. At various points voices come
out of one channel only. This happens particularly in the
concerted voice section of the recitative Einer aber von
denen [No.12] and in the solo aria [No.41] Furchtbar
blickst du auf ihn nieder.
aria-less in conventional baroque terms the Passion may strike
one now perhaps as too desiccated and plain but it is revealing
of contemporary taste in Hamburg as to prevailing musical
and liturgical orthodoxies, as to the adaptability of the
form and the means and measures taken by composers such as
C.P.E Bach to circumvent, expand or otherwise utilise it.
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