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Handel: Brockes Passion / Wenzinger, Stader, Jennings, Haefliger

Release Date: 06/25/2001 
Label:  The Originals   Catalog #: 463644   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  3 Hours  2 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

...The least familiar work in this issue is the “Brookes“ Passion (the second of two by Handel in that form), so-called because one Barthold Heinrich Brockes, a Hamburg dignitary, supplied the text: a dramatic poem entitled “Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus.“ I can claim no fluency whatever in German, but respected critics have deplored its hyperbolic verses. Nevertheless, it was quite popular in its day. Public and private readings were common, and it was set to music not only by Keiser, Mattheson, and Telemann (even Bach set parts of it) but by a number of lesser-known composers as well. Just how, why, where (England or Germany), or when (1716, 17, 18, or 19 . . . take your choice) Handel got around to Read more it is not known for sure. (Heinz Becker, in the notes accompanying these discs, cites carelessness in prosody as evidence of haste or even that the text was set to pre-existing music, thereby favoring a later date. Unfortunately, there are similar instances in works Handel composed when he wasn't rushed.) We don't have the original score which is lost, and Chrysander had to depend on early (and conflicting) copies for his edition.

It's a longish work running a minute or two over three hours and apparently intended to be performed without intermission. Its core is, as expected, a paraphrase of the Gospels, to which Brockes added a number of characters, the most prominent being The Daughter of Zion (beautifully sung by Stader) and a quartette of Gläubige Seelen, all of whom, singly or together, comment from time to time on the action. The burden of the narrative falls to the Evangelist, but, in operatic fashion, some scenes proceed as dialogue in recitative (e.g., Jesus' meetings with Caiaphas and Pilate, the three servants accusing Peter of following Christ, which he denies, etc.). The score doesn't number the musical sections, but the libretto, which does, lists 56 vocal numbers, not counting some 50 intervening recitatives. Most are brief but some have multiple verses or are in da capo form (the singers do not ornament their arias but the oboe does during The Daughter of Zion's, “Sünder, schaut mit Furcht“), and although Wen-zinger tries not to dawdle (he has little choice in some passages) the work wears out its welcome well before its end.

Wenzinger and his choral and instrumental forces are nothing short of superb, while Stader and Jennings, the latter rather unexpectedly given the star names in the cast, walk off with the solo vocal honors. Haefliger is better as the Evangelist, whose recitatives he declaims freely and with exquisite taste, than as one of the Believers, huff-puffing his way through the aria “Erwäg', ergrimmte Natterbrut.“ Adam starts off gruffly and seems more hidebound by stave bars in recitatives than Haefliger, but his arias and his duet with Mary are sung with power and warmth. The latter role isn't very large or musically interesting, but what she is given to do, Moser does well enough. Esswood is more successful as a Believer than in his other roles which are not at all characterized or even differentiated. There is a slight echo-y quality to the recorded sound (was it recorded in the Regensburg Cathedral?) which is not at all disturbing. In fact, I rather like it. This is by no means a long-neglected masterpiece, but even minor Handel is well worth having, and I doubt a better performance of it will come along on disc very soon. The recording, if not the work, is certainly recommended...

-- Anthony D. Coggi, FANFARE [11/1985]
reviewing this recording reissued as DG 413922 Read less

Works on This Recording

Brockes-passion, HWV48 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Jerry J Jennings (Tenor), Edda Moser (Soprano), Theo Adam (Bass-baritone),
Paul Esswood (Alto), Ernst Haefliger (Tenor), Maria Stader (Soprano),
Jakob Stämpfli (Bass)
Conductor:  August Wenzinger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Basiliensis Choir,  Regensburg Cathedral Choir
Written: 1717 
Date of Recording: 1967 

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