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Hans Peter TÜRK (b. 1940)
Siebenbürgische Passionsmusik für Karfreitag nach dem Evangelistem Mattäus (Transylvanian Passion Music for Good Friday after the Gospel of St. Matthew) (2007) [69.46]
Evangelist – Andreas Petzoldt (tenor)
Christus – Matthias Weichert (bass)
Pilate’s Wife – Claudia Zohm (soprano)
Pilate – Reinhard Decker (bass)
Judas, Jeremias, Prophet – Nikolaus Krause (bass)
Annekathrin Laabs (alto)
Bernhard Vetter (tenor)
Ursula Philippi (organ)
Meissner Kantorei 1961/Chrisfried Brödel
rec. 18-20 April 2008 Stadtkirche Burgstadt
Experience Classicsonline

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.

Matthias Weichert makes a fine Christus, though the part is nowhere near as magical as Bach’s.

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 profoundly beautiful.

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.

Robert Hugill


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