Notes and Editorial Reviews
C. P. E. BACH
St. Matthew Passion
Ton Koopman, cond; Jörg Dürmüller (
); Klaus Mertens (
); Amsterdam Baroque O & Ch
PREISER 316 (2 CDs: 101:57
Text and Translation)
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s effort to do here what his father had done in such a masterly way over 40 years earlier reminds
me of my first exposure to the father’s most talented son. I came early to Philipp Emanuel’s
of 1749 in Felix Prohaska’s recording (though I waited for the single-disc reissue of a three-sided LP set). I was overwhelmed by its power and beauty. Later, as I bought every succeeding issue, all displaying the latest historically aware performance practice and fleeter tempos, I found the results weaker than what Prohaska had accomplished with modern instruments and tempos more extended than any later version. From the same conductor, I also learned Bach’s
, another work that I was willing to acquire in endless duplications. Unwilling to choose between father and son, I continue to cherish both works.
This recording, while not making such an immediate impact, proves to be a work of some stature. Its length, so much shorter than the masterpiece we all know, is explained by a shorter gospel narrative that begins in Gethsemane and ends with the death on the Cross. Despite the fact that the son inherited the complete performing materials of his father’s
, the true comparison is not with his father’s setting but with those of his predecessor in Hamburg, Georg Philipp Telemann. When the younger Bach succeeded him in 1767, he found a tradition of Passion settings far different than he had known in Leipzig. Telemann had contributed 46 settings of all four gospel narratives to that tradition, only half of which are extant. Five of his six Matthew Passions have been recorded. I have the 1730 version by Redel from 1965 and Frieberger from 1985 (11:3); also the 1746 version by Max from 1998 (23:4), but not the earlier recordings by Stöltzel (18:6) and Seeliger (18:1). I have not even seen recordings of the 1754, 1758, and 1766 settings. These settings established the Hamburg approach to the Passion that Philipp Emanuel followed, one that had less of the spiritual profundity that Bach gave Leipzig. Since he had arrived in Hamburg just before Easter of 1768, this first Passion setting in his new post was not heard until 1769.
In the Hamburg tradition, Philipp Emanuel composes a
that focuses more on the humanity of Christ and less on the sinfulness of mankind. The choral pieces are brief but the arias are expressive. The singers and players give a fine account of the work under Koopman’s knowing direction. The neglect of the work, still unpublished, it seems, can be explained. The performing materials had been preserved at the Berlin Sing-Akademie, a collection that had been lost in 1945 and only returned in 1999 after being discovered in Kiev, the booty of war. We are promised more music from the same collection. This is well worth hearing.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Saint Matthew Passion, H 782 by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach
Jörg Dürmüller (Tenor),
Klaus Mertens (Bass),
Deborah York (Soprano),
Franziska Gottwald (Alto),
Orlanda Velez Isidro (Soprano),
René Steur (Bass)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra,
Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Written: 1769; Germany
Date of Recording: 2002
Venue: Live Vienna, Austria
Length: 101 Minutes 57 Secs.
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