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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu H. 777 (1778)
Lore Binon (soprano); Kieran Carrel (tenor); Andreas Wolf (baritone)
Vlaams Radiokoor
Il Gardellino Baroque Orchestra/Bart van Reyn
rec. 2021, Amuz, Antwerp
German libretto with English translation and commentary in English, French, and German included

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach worked on what he deemed his finest composition, Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu Wq 240 (H. 777), a two-part oratorio to a libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler, between 1774 and 1787, when it was published by Breitkopf in Leipzig. The care that Bach took in continuing to revise this work after its first public performance on 18 March 1778 in the Concertsaal auf dem Kamp in Hamburg shows how much value he attached to it. Ramler’s libretto was esteemed before Bach set it to music; Georg Philipp Telemann had already done so in 1760.

The oratorio consists of 22 musical numbers, two of which are short orchestral preludes to each part; the first half pertains to the resurrection of Jesus, the second to his ascension. One characteristic that distinguishes this work from the more famous oratorios by his father (i.e., the Johannes-Passion and the Matthäus-Passion) is that it was meant to be performed in concert rather than as part of a liturgical service. Following its publication, the work received attention from Franz Josph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who directed three performances of it in Vienna at concerts for Gottfried van Swieten’s Gesellschaft der Associierten Cavaliers in 1788. Haydn used an identical distribution of solo voices (one soprano, one tenor, and one baritone) in Die Schöpfung (1798) and Die Jahreszeiten (1801). Despite its initial success and enormous influence on other composers, Bach’s oratorio did not find favour during the nineteenth century; performances remain infrequent.

The recording by the Vlaams Radiokoor and Il Gardellino Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Bart van Reyn conveys thorough commitment to this lesser-known masterpiece. The chorus sings with precision and emotion; the orchestra plays on period instruments with brisk tempos that never feel rushed and a textural clarity that is not dry. Lore Binon, the soprano soloist, has clear diction and a lyrical voice; Kieran Carrel, the tenor, delivers the recitatives and arias with authority; and Andreas Wolf, the baritone, has a strong voice that imparts warmth and reverence, two emotions critical to the subject matter.

Knowledge of CPE Bach’s oratorio is essential for understanding the development of Austro-German music in the late eighteenth century. Haydn’s oratorios and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would not have been possible without Bach’s precedent. This recording will hopefully draw attention to this work that not only inspired other composers but is great music that belongs in the oratorio repertoire.

Daniel Floyd

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