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Bach: Trauer Music - Music To Mourn Prince Leopold / Parrott, Taverner Consort

Bach,J.s. / Taverner Consort & Players / Parrott
Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2241  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Thomas MeglioranzaClare WilkinsonEmily van EveraCharles Daniels
Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner ConsortTaverner Players
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Trauer-Music, BWV 244a Andrew Parrott, cond; Emily van Evera (sop); Clare Wilkinson (ms); Charles Daniels (ten); Tom Meglioranza (bar); Taverner Consort & Players AVIE AV2241 (78:40 Text and Translation)

Anyone wishing to perform the funeral music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, Bach’s onetime boss, comes up against a serious technical problem:There is no music for it, though the text survives. Doing something about such Read more situations is the very stuff of much modern musicology. Consider the new movements for the music of Mahler, Elgar, Britten, even whole new music (in the style of or, perhaps, not: Manfred Tojahn’s for La clemenza di Tito or Luciano Berio’s for Turandot ). The arguments for this sort of thing are well worn but are still making the rounds: The composer did this sort of thing himself, the composer would have wanted this piece finished, it gives us a new view of this or that period, approach, style of the composer, and so on without any end in sight. Bach is an especial victim of this sort of carpentry, and BWV 244a is a tempting target, along with the St. Mark and St. Luke Passions.

When he compiled the Bach Werke-Verzeichnis in 1950, Wolfgang Schmieder noted that a good deal of Picander’s 1728 text fit certain numbers of the 1725 St. Matthew Passion (which is why it shares the same BWV number) and the 1727 Trauer-Ode (BWV 198). In what I assume will be the notes for this recording, Andrew Parrott makes clear what fits where, leaving only the problem of the recitatives, which he composed himself and about which he himself says “caveat emptor,” and the final organization of the whole, which he posits took place in four sections instead of what seems to be only two or three, and began the night before with the funeral itself, followed the next day with the memorial service. This necessitates a rearrangement of the libretto as printed, which he argues may not have represented exactly what happened.

To the question of why we need this reconstruction Parrott gives no direct answer, but, as the longest of the known remaining texts for which there is no music, it clearly constitutes a challenge. He also thinks it refreshing to encounter some of this music in a different context. It must be said, then, that Parrott meets this challenge with his customary energy and expertise.

This performance is made with the kind of disposition Parrott has used for decades, and argued forcefully for in The Essential Bach Choir (2001), mostly one-to-a-part, with the choruses doubled here. While this approach seems reasonable for the church cantatas, I think it entirely unlikely for the passions, the Trauer-Ode , and this piece, music that required the greatest possible effect, not least in the choruses. Interestingly, as with the Trauer-Ode and the secular cantatas, but not with the Passions, there are no chorales.

Let it be noted, then, that, within his musicological choices, Parrott has made a convincing job of this piece. The Taverner Consort plays with long-won expertise, and the soloists are uniformly good. The eight-member chorus just does not have enough gravity, and the sopranos tend to be a bit shrill in places. When it joins the tenor in two numbers, they are recorded distantly, though on their own quite close up, as is most of the recording. As near as I can tell, there is no other recording of an attempted reconstruction of this music. No matter; if one is needed, this one will do nicely.

FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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Works on This Recording

Trauer-Music, BWV 244a by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Thomas Meglioranza (Baritone), Clare Wilkinson (Mezzo Soprano), Emily van Evera (Soprano),
Charles Daniels (Tenor)
Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Consort,  Taverner Players
Period: Baroque 

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