Reinhard KEISER (1674-1739)
Markuspassion (St. Mark Passion, early 1700s)
Thomas E. Bauer - Jesus (bass)
Jan Kobow – Evangelist (tenor)
Ensemble Jacques Moderne
Gli Incogniti/Joël Suhubiette and Amandine Beyer
rec. l’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, 2014. DDD
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as lossless download from
(mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)
MIRARE MIR254 [76:21]
Settings of the St. Mark Passion are less common than those of St. Matthew
and St. John, perhaps because Mark’s gospel was believed to have been
an abridgement of Matthew and Luke until scholarly research proved that
it was the first of the synoptic gospels. Also, like the St. Luke Passion,
it was relegated to the weekdays of Holy Week. Bach is believed to
have composed a St. Mark Passion, but it’s lost, though attempts have
been made to reconstruct it. There’s a Carus recording, which Michael
Cookson praised – review*
– and a new version is due for release on Rondeau, though I haven’t
been able to hear it. What is known, however, is that Bach thought
sufficiently highly of the Keiser setting to have performed it three
times, in Weimar in 1713 – the basis for the edition employed here –
and in Leipzig in 1726 and 1748.
Bach’s own settings were influenced by Keiser’s Markuspassion
and his Brockes-Passion, which Ramée have recorded (RAM1303 –
review). You’ll recognise the tune of O Haupt voll Blut und
Wunden on track 23, set to the words Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden,
as it also was by Bach in the Matthew Passion. The alternation of arias
and chorales with the gospel text will also be familiar from the Bach
There is just one other version of the Markuspassion in the current
catalogue, on Christophorus, available as a download only in the UK.
It’s a decent performance, if not out of the top drawer – Download
Roundup March 2012/2. I haven’t done a detailed comparison with
the new recording because I hope to get this review online in time for
Holy Week, but the new recording is preferable and the work emerges
from it more impressively than I remember.
Recent musicological research tends to suggest that the Markuspassion
is not the work of Reinhard Keiser, essentially for stylistic reasons.
However, it has not yet proved possible to attribute it positively to
any other contemporary composer, such as Nicolaus Bruhns, or to Gottfried
Keiser, Reinhard’s father, so its paternity is currently uncertain.
Nor can we be absolutely sure of the forces employed in Weimar in 1713
but they must have been, at the minimum, four singers, four strings,
and a harpsichord. Mirare have decided to assign the four voices of
the chorus to three singers per part, with the soloists also taking
part in the chorus, except for Jesus and the Evangelist. The two violins
and two violas are joined by a continuo group consisting of organ, harpsichord,
cello, violone, theorbo, and bassoon.
The two principal voices are very good and the Evangelist in particular
has a strong sense of drama, though it’s never overdone. The supporting
voices are also well cast: if there’s a weak spot it’s David Erler who
sings the alto arias and High Priest, but that reservation didn’t spoil
my appreciation of the whole performance and in Was seh’ ich hier
(track 21) and Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden (tr. 23) he redeems
himself to a large extent. Conversely I’d single out the soprano Anne
Magouët in O Golgotha! (tr.19) and Seht, Menschenkinder
(tr.24). The chorus is smallish; nevertheless it packs the required
power when the crowd cries Kreuziget ihn! (Crucify him! tr.14).
For speed I downloaded the 16-bit version, which sounds very well, but
there’s also a 24-bit for a little more, and I also sampled the mp3,
which is also very good of its kind. The booklet, which comes as part
of the deal, contains informative notes in French, English and ‘Deutch’
together with texts and translations.
At $17.18 the download is not much less expensive than the CD, which
you should be able to find for around £12.75, but the disc is not scheduled
for release until 6 April 2015, three days too late for Good Friday,
which is surely the right day on which to hear this recording. The
download is available now and fans of high-res sound will be prepared
to pay a little more for it ($20.61). All in all, lovers of the Bach
Passions should appreciate this recording, which is preferable to the
only rival version.
* stream/download it or the earlier Rondeau recording with the Hannoversche
Hofkapelle from Qobuz.