Hans Peter Türk was born in Siebenbürgen (Transylvania in Romania)
and belongs to a group of ethnic Germans living in Transylvania.
He studied at the Music Academy in Klausenburg (Cluj). In 1979
he won the George Enescu composition prize from the Romanian Academy,
but as he wasn’t a member of the Romanian communist party he could
not take any significant posts. In 1989 he became a Professor
at the Klausenburg/Cluj Music Academy. His music contains echoes
of Bartók and Transylvanian folk-song. The Klausenburg chapter
of the Romanian Society of Composers awarded Türk its Composition
Price in 2007 for the Transylvanian Passion Music. This
work was premiered in 2007 by the Hermanstadt (Sibiu) Bach Choir
and the Meissner Kantorei 1961 under the direction of Chrisfried
Brödel as part of the Hermanstadt (Sibiu) celebrations when it
was the 2007 European Capital of Culture.
Türk has set the
text of a traditional Transylvanian Passion. These passions
were presented by local musicians and the texts continued to
be printed in hymn books until the 1960s. Türk has set the passion
texts for Good Friday. The work is in three parts, Jesus before
Pilate, Jesus’s Death and Jesus’s Burial. The text consists
of a mixture of chorales, choruses and recitative. The story
is told in recitative punctuated by dramatic choruses. This
narrative is interspersed with chorales. There are no arias.
The text in the booklet is printed only in German so I cannot
accurately comment on how far the passion narrative differs
from the Gospel accounts.
The work is accompanied
by organ and opens with a dramatic solo for the instrument.
The vast bulk of the narrative is taken by the Evangelist, Andreas
Petzoldt. The tessitura of the part is quite wide-ranging and
it taxes Petzoldt a little at the top and bottom ends of his
voice. But his is a superb performance, making Türk’s expressionistic
vocal line come over as expressive and natural. Türk’s style
is fundamentally tonal, but his vocal lines can be jagged and
he does not eschew awkwardness, if it seems apt.
makes a fine Christus, though the part is nowhere near as magical
All the soloists
have an organ accompaniment that is so discreet as to make them
sound unaccompanied. The organ is slightly more vigorous in
the choruses and chorales but the main dramatic outbursts are
in the prelude and short organ solos which punctuate the piece.
For the chorales,
Türk gives us variations on or distant reflections of the chorale
melodies. He varies the style and format of these pieces so
as to give the piece a variety of utterance and texture. Some
of the chorales use solo voices and some of the most magical
moments occur in these. The chorale O Haupt voll Blut und
Wunden in part 2 is sung by soprano and bass solo and is
In other places
Türk encompasses spoken passages and modernist choral techniques,
but these are neatly blended into the whole. The diversity of
the choral passages becomes another expressive device and Türk’s
distinctive style ensures that the whole is coherent.
Though Türk provides
us with a great variety of textures and styles, the predominant
feel of this piece is that of quiet intensity. This is large
part down to the austere simplicity of the scoring of the recitative.
This requires, and gets, extreme commitment from the soloists
who render the work most movingly.
The CD booklet includes
a good article in English about the piece with some notes about
the origins of the text. Unfortunately the track-listing and
the libretto are only in German and the libretto does not contain
any track information, so cross-referencing a passage on the
disc with the relevant part of the libretto can be tricky.
This is a fascinating
work by a composer who seems to be relatively unknown outside
the German-speaking world. This disc makes an interesting, approachable
and highly recommendable introduction to Türk’s work. Anyone who
is curious about the possibility of passion settings after Bach
would be well advised to try this out.