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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Johannes-Passsion BWV 245
General Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Basso continuo in SJP

Tomek wrote (June 11, 2003):
As far as I'm concerned, Bach (and any other baroque composer) never specified instrument's on which the basso continuo part should be played. He have always written only "b.c." near the part. In SJP from 1747 (not 1749 - in 1749 Bach was to sick to perform a Passion) as well.

The way b.c. should be played is, was and will be the topic of unending deliberations. In fact the baroque idea of b.c. is to make it very free for musicians, there surely aren't any ultimate solutions, everything left to the taste of players.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 11, 2003):
Tomek wrote:
< As far as I'm concerned, Bach (and any other baroque composer) never specified instrument's on which the basso continuo part should be played. He have always written only "b.c." near the part. In SJP from 1747 (not 1749 - in 1749 Bach was to sick to perform a Passion) as well. >
Not so, according to my (secondary) sources. It was 1749, and Bach did specify a harpsichord on that occasion -- though it's true that this was not his usual practice.

From John Butt's entry on the Johannes-Passion in The Oxford Composer Companion on Bach (p. 428):

"Bach's use of the harpsichord in church music has been a subject of controversy. The 1749 version is one of the few works for which a part is actually labelled 'cembalo' and thorough-bass figures are added for every movement. Bach's complaints about the state of the harpsichord for the first performance further suggest that the harpsichord always belonged with the forces of this work". (These words also appear in Butt's notes for Parrott's recording -- which indeed, like Suzuki's, uses the 1749 version, including the alterations to the texts of several arias).

As for Bach being too ill to perform a Passion -- here's the relevant bit from Christoph Wolff's recent biography (Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, p. 444):

"we have no evidence that any developing health problem affected [Bach's] official duties and private business through much of the spring of 1749. The letter of April 2, 1749, written by Franz Ernst von Wallis [....] reports nothing about his being ill. Two days later, Bach performed his _St. John Passion_ with an increased ensemble". Wolff goes on to cite evidence suggesting that Bach's health declined later that month -- after the Passion had been performed.

Tomek wrote (June 11, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks Uri for your fast reply, next time I should check certain things more carefully.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 12, 2003):
Some facts and thoughts about the final performance of the SJP under Bach’s direction on April 4, 1749 in the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) in Leipzig:

1. The autograph score, a later autograph copy from c.1735-1742 [not the original, ‘composing’ score which must have been used in 1724 for the 1st performance in Leipzig on April 7th of that year in the St. Nicholas Church – parts of the SJP derive from the Weimar period and some were already composed in 1723] does not specifically designate a harpsichord in the b.c. Bach’s own designations c. 1740 are still “Continuo; Violoncelli e Bassoni; Org. e Violone.”

2. The original continuo parts (which were most likely simply marked ‘Continuo’) from the 1724 performance did not survive, only the doublets did. An unfigured bc part marked “Continuo” comes from the March 30, 1725 performance in the St. Thomas Church. Another original part marked “Continuo,” also unfigured, comes from the time period 1728-1732 with the most likely performance taking place on April 11, 1732? in the St. Nicholas Church. The bc parts marked “Cembalo” [harpsichord] with both figured and unfigured versions are the replacement parts for the final performance of the SJP on April 4, 1749 in the St. Nicholas Church. The separate, added sheets for the Organo accompaniment for one mvt. of the SJP are not noted here.

3. In regard to the late “harpsichord” continuo versions: The ‘figured’ part was copied mainly by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795) [still a teenager!] and the figured bass is by another hand (not J.S.!) [J.S.Bach only copied mvt. 40 and provided the figured bass for it and for mvt. 13 up to ms. 40 only. Otherwise, only corrections and slight additions are noticed here and there.] The unfigured “Cembalo” part was copied by 3 copyists with J.S. Bach providing only a few corrections and additions. The ‘figured’ continuo-harpsichord part is practically unusable for a performance: “Jedenfalls ist die Bezifferung in B 23 im allgemeinen so fehlerhaft, und die Ziffern, auch die richtigen, sind so oft verstellt oder unleserlich, daß der Spieler von dieser Stimme nur wenig Nutzen gehabt haben kann“ [In any case, the figured bass {for the 1749 performance] is so full of errors, and the figures themselves, even the ones that are correctly indicated, have been misplaced or have become unreadable so that this part would have been of little use to the person playing from this part.] NBA KB II/4 p. 184.

Mendel based upon Dürr’s and Dadelsen’s careful analysis of the manuscripts describes Bach’s handwriting (in the corrections and additions) in this late period of Bach’s life as ‘steif und plump’ [stiff and awkward/podgy/clumsy] and points to a style of penmanship that “anscheinend auf irgendeine Krankheit oder Schwäche zurückzuführen ist” [probably can be attributed to some kind of illness or weakness.] NBA KB II/4 p. 71 “Dieses Urteil geht offenbar von der stillschweigenden Annahme aus, daß sich Bach’s Unbeholfenheit im Schreiben mit zunehmendem Alter kontinuierlich steigerte.” [This opinion stems from the tacet assumption that Bach’s clumsiness in writing continually accelerated/got worse as he became older.] Further evidence of these changes, which I will not list here, are also given.

The performance of the SJP on April 4, 1749 may have been one of the last performances that Bach personally conducted. He may already have been quite ill, notwithstanding a letter from Franz Ernst von Wallis dated April 2, 1749, a letter in which the letter writer may have politely refrained from giving accurate details on the real state of Bach’s health. In his argument with Biedermann who published his “Programma de Vita musica” on May 12, 1749, Bach no longer personally intervened, because, as Jacob Adlung reported, Bach was “der Augen wegen ein Emeritus” [had retired from his profession because of the problem with his eyes.] Already on June 2, 1749, Count Brühl rather forcefully applied political leverage on the Leipzig authorities to give his protégé, Harrer, an immediate audition for Bach’s position because “bei sich dereinst ereignenden Abgang Bachs” [Bach will soon be stepping down from his position.] On June 8, 1749, over a year before Bach’s death, the Harrer’s audition was held. Wolff, in “The Learned Musician” pp. 442 ff. describes all of this in detail. It is clear that the city council had already been discussing this matter in May, 1749 before the Brühl’s letter arrived.

4. Further evidence about the use of the harpsichord for church music is given in Arnold Schering’s “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” (Leipzig, 1936.) Schering (p. 151) indicates that the St. Nicholas Church, where most of the performances including the final performance of the SJP took place, was noted for certain characteristics: a good organ with a very usable “Rückpositiv” for the bc accompaniment. However, the deteriorating condition of this organ became, from time to time, an ongoing concern for Bach so that there was often an element of unpredictability regarding its use as a continuo instrument. Schering indicates that the portable organ (Positiv) used for weddings would be next possibility available to Bach. Because of the extremely cramped quarters available in this church, the positioning of instruments such as the harpsichord might have caused problems. Nevertheless, a harpsichord was always present, if not always usable, in the limited space available in the balcony of the St. Nicholas Church (p. 65.) Schering lists the years for which payments were made for servicing this instrument. In 1724, Bach tried to get the existing instrument repaired for his performance of the SJP. Nothing is documented until 1732 (skip 1733 which was a year of mourning) and from 1734-1750 (1735 is uncertain), maintenance records are available. This means that this instrument was being utilized. The question remains: “In which capacity, under which circumstances was the harpsichord being used?”

Both Schering and Dreyfus [“Bach’s Continuo Group” Harvard University Press, 1987] indicate the limited number of harpsichord parts (where the bc designation specifically calls for a harpsichord) for Bach’s passions or the cantatas, but both allow for the possibility that Bach did not use either the organ or the harpsichord exclusively for the performance of the bc parts. It is interesting that most HIP recordings avoid the use of the harpsichord (particularly for recitatives) which was the preferred instrument for most non-HIP recordings. Is it possible that both instruments might have been used simultaneously under Bach’s direction? Dreyfus refers to ‘the primacy of organ continuo’ but also maintains the ‘dual accompaniment’ existed as well. This seems a reasonable solution to explain the historical evidence, but why don’t we hear more of this ‘dual use’ in the recordings that are currently being made?

Gene Hanson wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] An interestig post.

I wonder what musicologists will write of performance practices of today's church music 100 years from now. Every Catholic church I have been in has an organ, but a piano is usually used today during church services (at least at the several churches I attend on a regular basis). Particularly rare is the occasion when multiple instruments are used, and then usually only in a cathedral or in a church where the pastor or another priest has an interest in music.

Nesse Russell wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] Folk masses are popular here in Canada. Many of the beautiful old churches have magnificant pipe organs which are rarely used.

I just wrote this morning to another list that the Church historically fostered music. Not so today. Rather than oratorios, cantatas and anthemns many church are going with folk masses and praises ditties. A shame.

Gene Hanson wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Nessie Russell] Or using banal popular tunes. So probably musicoligists 100 years from now won't be writing about today's church music.

 

Question on score differences

Maria Dimaki wrote (February 20, 2004):
Perhaps some of you may be able to satisfy my curiosity. My choir is currently practising for a performance of Bach's Johannes Passion in the end of March. Since the choir has a rather long history and some members have been singing in it for about 40 years we are currently singing from 3 different editions. Two of them are the old and the new Peters edition. I cannot remember what the other is, but it is at least 12 years old. We have discovered a lot of differences between the editions and the strange part is that nearly all of them are between the old and the new Peters edition. These are differences in notes in all voices and differences in the placements of the words. Our conductor has chosen to follow the new Peters edition since her score is so and since most of the choir has that edition. I have listened to two performances and they are agreeing with the old Peters edition with the exception of an F, which is sung as it is in the new Peters, so as an F#.

The new Peters edition has a prologue where they explain that the new edition is based on some new discoveries and studies of the work. So my question to you is, how much can two editions differ? It is the same score they are "copying" from after all. Didn't Bach write clear enough? Did he leave several copies that are all different with each other? How much of an editor's mind comes into an edition?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 21, 2004):
[To Maria Dimaki] To begin with, there are four different versions of it by Bach! Editors have a forest of choices, even if they plan to go with a single source as the main one...how much should they regularize details that look inconsistent or look like handwriting errors, how much should they bring in differences from alternate readings, etc, etc.

 

Passion Time

Sw Anandgyan wrote (February 27, 2004):
I've been venturing deeper in the SJP. After the MBM and the XO, this is the work that I'm currently resonating a lot to.

After a year of Bach immersion, I'm glad to affirm that my musical horizon is not exclusively HIP.

Today I have purchased the Karl Forster EMI recording of the BWV 245. Because it was not so expensive, because of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig and mostly because I have fallen in love with a couple of delicate arias in this Passion.

Go placidly amidst the noise and the haste ...

P.S. Uri, I can hardly wait to read your take on the Cantus Cölln's MBM ...

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] Have you heard Günther Ramin's recording or the 1997 recording of Helmuth Rilling's? What do you think of those recordings?

Also, what do you think of the various recordings of Version II and Version IV of the Johannespassion? And could you point me out to where (if there be any) I could find a recording of the complete Version I and (possibly) version III of the Johannespassion as well as a recording of the version of Nr. 39 that KPE Bach used (and point me out as to where he used it in and the text he used)?

Marten Breuer wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] There are no recordings of Versions I and III because the scores have not been preserved.

I don't know how often CPE re-used Nr. 39. All I can say is that he did re-use it in his 1772 SJP, which was recently performed in the Berlin Philharmonie by the Sing-Akademie, see: http://www.sing-akademie.de/timer.htm

The recording of the performance is going to be released at Capriccio, see: http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/5559015

The text is slightly different, I currently don't have it at hand but I will send it later.

Marten Breuer wrote (February 27, 2004):
Here's the Text of Nr. 39 as used in CPE's 1772 SJP:

"Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine
Um die ich nicht mehr trostlos weine!
Ich weiß, einst gibt der Tod mir Ruh.
Nicht stets umschließet mich die Gruft;
Einst, wenn Got, mein Erlöser, ruft,
Dann eil' auch ich verklärt dem Himmel Gottes zu."

Sw Anandgyan wrote (February 27, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Have you heard Günther Ramin's recording or the 1997 recording of Helmuth Rilling's? What do you think of those recordings? >
<snip>
Never heard of the Ramin recording nor Rilling. Richter's SJP is indeed magnificent. Modern (can we really say non-HIP ? ) recordings I can enjoy, besides the one aforementioned, are Paul Kuentz, Michel Corboz II and Karl Forster.

If I pick up a Rilling CD, it'll be his fourth recording of the B minor Mass but at this point, I'd rather 'wait' for upcoming releases from conductors I prefer such as Suzuki and van Veldhoven.

I only have Rock'N'Roll culture which makes for unusual quoting.

" Music, all I hear is music, guaranteed to please.
And I look for something else. "
--- Peter Gabriel

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 9, 2004):
[To Marten Breuer] All I have to go on is the translation of Z. Philip Ambrose's of that movement into English. He does not give the German text at all.

As to the links, thanks. I will file them away for future use. It also mention a projected performance of the Matthaeuspassion of 1785 by Emanuel Bach. Do you know whither I could fia copy of its text (and those of the other Passionen of Emanuel Bach)?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 9, 2004):
[To Marten Breuer] Thanks again.

Marten Breuer wrote (March 9, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< As to the links, thanks. I will file them away for future use. It also mention a projected performance of the Matthaeuspassion of 1785 by Emanuel Bach. Do you know whither I could find a copy of its text (and those of the other Passionen of Emanuel Bach)? >
The Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos and Cambridge (USA), in cooperation with the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, is preparing "Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works", the first volume of which is announced for 2004. As for the performances of the Sing-Akademie, I think that they will prepare the scores themselves from the material found in Kiev. The Kiev material, by the way, is being published as microfiches by the K G Saur Verlag, see: http://www.saur.de/catalog/01_browse/_detail_deep.cfm?id=0000011323.

 

Recent Acquisitions

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 1, 2004):
Greetings everyone

Yesterday I was mentioning an affection for the Bach recordings from the Sixties. I showed up at one of my favourite second-hand CD shop and lo and behold, this time was possible for me to get my hands on;

- Karl Richter's MBM recorded in '61
- Eugen Jochum's SJP recorded in '67

Now I got my ears on the Johannes-Passion. I have let slip by an opportunity to purchase the John Eliot Gardiner's SJP at cheap price for the sake of more Renaissance music with the Huelgas Ensemble on the Vivarte label and some from the Belgian Laudantes Consort.

So ...

What is your favourite St-John Passion ?

Thanks

P.S. I can hardly wait to listen to this B minor Mass that I've read so much good about

Bob Henderson wrote (March 1, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] Congratulations on your purchases. I was fortunate enough to see and hear Richter live while on US tour. In performances of the MBM. The favorite SJP would be the Suzuki.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 1, 2004):
< - Karl Richter's MBM recorded in '61 >
I have the single LP of excerpts from that, and my wife and I both cannot bear to listen to it. May you have more success in enjoying it than we do!

< What is your favourite St-John Passion ? >
I have five that I like so well, I can't really choose a single favorite from among them. Smithsonian/Slowik, Parrott, Harnoncourt, Cleobury, and Herreweghe. Also, the one by Apollo's Fire/Sorrell in English!

And several others that I simply don't know well enough yet to say anything about, one way or another. I guess it's that time of year now to give them a closer listen.

Peter Bright wrote (March 2, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I am, of course, very jealous that you have Richter's MBM on vinyl. What a magnificent recording this is (once you can put the unbelievably slow first Kyrie to the side). This is far and away my favourite recording of the MBM on modern instruments and, for me, one of the jewels of the gramophone era. For more HIP recordings, my favourite is probably that of Hickox (although the Parrot has some sublime interpretations, my favourite on that recording being 'Et In Spiritum Sanctum Dominum' - never bettered...).

John Pike wrote (March 14, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] My favourite St JP is the Gardiner one.

 

More SJP

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 12, 2004):
So I'm going through a Johannes-Passion craze.

I'm quite happy with the variety available in my discotheque and yet quite curious if not a blooming collector. This being said, I have noticed the Wolfgang Gönnenwein available and I should take a listen in the store first but I thought I'd ask you ...

Anyone has anything to say about this recording ?

I prefer HIP but I'm not closed-minded, the Corboz II, Jochum and Forster have procured many moments of elation.

Have a good week-end everyone

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 13, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I don't know about Wolfgang Gönnenwein. The ones that I have heard and favor are the ones by: Karl Richter, Günther Ramin, Helmuth Rilling (the 1997 recording-only because it goes into all the different versions), the Neumann recording (1725 version), and both the Max and Suzuki recordings (1749 version).

Bob Henderson wrote (March 13, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] Your safest choice on a limited budget is Suzuki. Not that it costs less. But it will open your eyes. Tears in the woodwinds.

Robert Sherman wrote (March 13, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] My desert island choice, without hesitation, would be Richter. Haefliger and Prey in the narrative roles are all-consuming. Alto Hertha Toepper and gamba-ist Oswald Uhl are nothing short of transcendent. Only weakness in this recording is Evelyn Lear's soprano. Almost anybody would be better. But with digital splicing you can get around that.

 

SJP, OVPP and More Blah Blah

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 13, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
"My desert island choice, without hesitation, would be Richter. Haefliger and Prey in the narrative roles are all-consuming. Alto Hertha Töpper and gamba-ist Oswald Uhl are nothing short of transcendent. Only weakness in this recording is Evelyn Lear’s soprano. Almost anybody would be better. But with digital splicing you can get around that."
Thank you to Bob, David and Robert for your comments.

I was weary of indicating the recordings I can listen to at home since I'm too green to be able to pinpoint what are their respective differences; I like them a lot or I find them quite good. Not so much a lack of discrimination, for I know when I'm moved, but simply being a real beginner.

Indeed Richter and Suzuki are cream of the crop.

It is because of such Early Sixties recordings that are appealing to me that I'm ventured on acquiring the Forster one ( mostly on a whim because Dietrich F-D. and Christa L.) and the Ledger XO ( way too cheap to ignore and pleasantly surprised ). I'm one to read as many critics as I can about composers, conductors or contributors to the immense BCW and it steers my curiosity.

It's with time that I find to which opinion's I tend to agree more when it comes to preferences. There are instances where the Leonhardt MBM is considered drabbest of them all by one and alone at the top by another. It's normal.

I'm listening to the Higginbottom SJP because it made the Ten Outstanding Recordings in June 2003 in the Gramophone magazine, its purchase was more easily justified, and a bargain. It is a very satisfying listening experience. The singing is, to my neophyte ears, very exquisite, and the hardware, period instruments ... because I read it ! It sounds rich, polished and elegant. It makes for a nice companion to the Robert King all-male MBM.

That is the positive side of being such a beginner; I'm far from blasé, I'm excited and this musical discovery hasn't let go of me.

When it comes to the SJP, there's not only the recordings on Naxos or BIS but Herreweghe I (somehow more than II ), Brüggen that, to my taste, consider highly and Fasolis, some sort of reputation-wise underdog that deserves applauding, that I return to listen to with much appreciation. I have chosen to buy the Kuijken over the Gardiner, because I cannot purchase them all, (I hope ... ) and from my deduction from the information I could glean on BCW, review from the Gramofile. Indeed the Parrott SJP is quite a success and I'm still puzzled as to why its minimal forces never jumped at my ears like the Junghanel or Rifkin did.

I have landed a l'Oiseau-Lyre edition of three cantatas (BWV 140, BWV 51 and BWV 78 ) and the shock from the absence of choir has 'upset' me much more than discovering his rendition of the MBM. So I'm learning about differentiating between cantatas and Passions, the use of 'ripieno' and anyway ...

Eventually I'm bound to listen to the Cantus Cölln MBM again and grow as a listener with flair.

The immersion in the Johannes-Passion keeps on, tis Paul Kuentz too, though this one is for the 'completist' in me, ( enjoying his modern instruments MBM and Magnificat sometimes ) and the Harnoncourt II has been ordered. The Suzuki deserves all its praise. I'm 'young' not dumb ;-)

I have mentioned resonating a lot to the MBM, the XO and now the SJP. Most likely this will happen too with the SMP. I'm still not into it, yet the Klemperer one is on my list, just because those Early Sixties recording have that certain grandiosity that just gets me and I'll have something to contrast the McCreesh, Harnoncourt, Suzuki, Herreweghe with ...

It was not easy to expand your knowledge when you mostly deal with" tangerines, mandarins and clementines ". I prefer HIP and not exclusively.

Just into Bach long enough to bother you with this long post that amounts to not much; I'll have to listen to the Gönneinwein SJP in store and take it from there since no owner of such a recording mentioned anything. I'm not blaming that person; there is a discussion going on at BCW on the MBM and though I'm an avid reader,and in spite of a good amount of available CDs, I'm much of a twit when it comes to sharply elaborate on particularities of this masterpiece.

I don't want you to lose too much of your time over such ramblings. May I (... finally !) conclude with another question;

It's the aria 'Agnus Dei' in the MBM and the 'Es ist vollbracht' in the SJP that have musically seduced me. Which cantata has a moment of such rapturous tenderness ?

Bob Henderson wrote (March 13, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I too have had to struggle with a limited budget over my lifetime and I know how difficult it is to pick and choose. It sounds like you are consulting excellent sources and reviews. Your love of the music and of discovery shines through your writing. In spite of its lack of fashion, no better place to start than the Klemperer SMP. Better yet try the Richter 1959 (not 1970). Were I about to build in a systematic way a collection of cantatas, no better way to go than Suzuki because: he is releasing them slowly at four CDs per year and it will take him another ten years to complete. Thus you can catch up and follow. He is currently about 40% through with volume 23; because the performances are uniformly excellent. If you like his SJP you will like his cantatas; because his soloists are more consistently good than Koopman's, because the performances re not as variable as in Gardiner’s. The Herreweghe set is not complete.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 14, 2004):
< Indeed the Parrott SJP is quite a success and I'm still puzzled as to why its minimal forces never jumped at my ears like the Junghänel or Rifkin did. >
As the Parrott SJP is basically two voices per part, the sound is not so different from a lerger choir. The difference in quality between one and two voices per part is much greater than that between two and three (or four).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 16, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] Also, you didn't say whether you have heard any of the Thomanerchor Leipzig performances.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 16, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I don't know about the movements you mention (whether they have equal in the Kantaten), but I do know of another that does have equal in the Kantaten: the Crucifixus movement in the Messe h-Moll (BWV 232 ). This, as you might be aware, was taken practically verbatim from Kantate 12 "Weinen, Klagen, Zorgen, Zagen" BWV 12. I find this and the "Et incarnatus est" and "Kyrie I" movements of the Messe h-Moll to be very sublime and beautiful.

 

SJP by Forster and Gönnenwein

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 15, 2004):
Sw Anandgyan wrote:
< [snip]
It is because of such Early Sixties recordings that are appealing to me that I'm ventured on acquiring the Forster one ( mostly on a whim because Dietrich F-D. and Christa L.) and the Ledger XO ( way too cheap to ignore and pleasantly surprised ). I'm one to read as many critics as I can about composers, conductors or contributors to the immense BCW and it steers my curiosity.
[snip]
Just into Bach long enough to bother you with this long post that amounts to not much; I'll have to listen to the Gönneinwein SJP in store and take it from there since no owner of such a recording mentioned anything. I'm not > blaming that person; there is a discussion going on at BCW on the MBM and > though I'm an avid reader,and in spite of a good amount of available CDs, > I'm much of a twit when it comes to sharply elaborate on particularities of this masterpiece.
[snip] >
I took a day off work to work on another project relating somehow to the BCW.
Then I read your message and could not refuse the temptation to take the SJP's of Forster and Gönnenwein off the shelves and listen to them for a while.

These two recordings, both recorded during the 1960's [See details at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV245-Rec2.htm ] have some common denominators. Both use, of course, conventional instrumentation (non-HIP), big choirs, and has similar approach and atmosphere. The roster of soloists of each rendition is second to none. The choral movements are excellent. Both conductors prefer relatively slow tempi. Although Forster is a little bit faster, he sounds to me somewhat more heavy-handed, as if he has problems with holding such a big production. On the other hand he has the sublime Fritz Wunderlich as the Evangelist to his disposal. Altmeyer, with Gönnenwein, does not fail to convince with his more subdued and intimate approach, but I prefer the more dramatic Wunderlich with the golden timbre and the piercing quality of his voice. Most of the other vocal soloists were in their prime when they participated in these recordings. Even the soprano Grümmer (Forster), who was 50, could give a moving performance of an aria like 'Zerfliesse, mein Herz, in Fluten' without any sign of strain or inflexibility. Ameling (Gönnenwein) brings freshness and purity to the same aria, and is no less satisfying. Krass (Gönnenwein) is as authoritative Jesus as the best of them, but DFD (Forster) gives the extra dimension to this part with endless nuances and colours, which only he could find in this role. His voice had at that stage of his long career the depth missing from his earlier recordings. Ludwig gives a heart-rending performance of the famous aria for alto 'Es ist vollbracht!', but so is Fassbaender (Gönnenwein). I could go on with more detailed comparison, but I believe that the main message is clear...

Forster's SJP was the first recording of any of Bach's vocal works I have ever listened to. It was about three decades ago, and I remember myself repeat listening to the sixth side (of 3-LP album) over and over again, because I was keen on the one before last choral movement 'Ruht wohl, ihr heligen Gebeine'. I thought that I was the only man on earth realizing that this movement was the origin of the famous song from 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.

These two renditions are spirited and all the participants give the impression of being dedicated, involved and inspired. I would not like to single out any of them as more recommended than the other. But if I had to choose only one recording of SJP to take with me to a desert island, it would be (nowadays) neither of them but Enoch zu Guttenberg. This is the most dramatic and mesmerizing rendition of this magnificent work I have ever heard.

Robert Sherman wrote (March 15, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] I bought the Forster with great expectations many years ago because of my immense respect for DFD and Fritz Wunderlich. But I have to say I was disappointed and, after two or three listenings, have not returned to it. DFD’s “Mich durstet” is appropriately dry and piteous, but the rest of his performance is also dry and, IMO, not moving in comparison to the rich and resonant Hermannn Prey with Richter. Similarly, Wunderlich, who sings magnificently in Richter’s XO, seems to have no understanding of the nuanced and multicolored world Haefliger (with Richter) lives in.

I agree about Grümmer, though. singing is elegant.

 

SJP

John Pike wrote (June 16, 2004):
A large number of recordings of the SJP are listed on the Bach Cantatas website. Some of these state "1724 version", "1725 version" or "1749 version" but mostly no details of the version are given. What version should be assumed when none is given and which recordings of the various versions would you recommend?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To John Pike] Is there also not a 1732 version? I would assume (wrongly perhaps?) that if no details are given it is the first version of 1724.

As to the 1725 version I like the second Herreweghe version very much. True, it is in the later, suaver Herreweghe manner, but it is beautifully executed. Fine soloists - Sibylla Rubens, Andreas Scholl and Mark Padmore among them and the choir and orchestra are perhaps more polished than in his previous recording (which was of the first version).

I also like very much the Parrott recording, which is of the 1749 version (though David Lebut says this is not strictly so). Two-ro-a-part in the choruses, it is both intimate and powerful, again very beautifully done, as are all Parrott's Bach recordings, to my mind. He also uses a harpsichord (as well as organ) continuo.

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To John Pike] I quote a Michael Steinberg, who does not state his sources:

The Saint John Passion was then essentially the composition you hear at these performances, although Bach changed it considerably when he brought it back for Good Friday in 1725, altered it again for a performance about 1730, and finally, sometime in the 1740s, restored it to something very close to its original shape.
...
Bach begins with a grand chorus, "Herr, unser Herrscher", which is a song of praise and at the same time a reminder to the congregation of the fundamental theme of the Passion. This is one of the movements that Bach replaced and ultimately restored. What he replaced it with you can hear in the Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244), for it is the immense setting of the chorale "O Mensch bewein' dein' Sünde gross" that now closes Part One of that work. Bach reverted to his original design after "O Mensch bewein'" had found a permanent place in the Saint Matthew Passion.
...
impassioned and tormented tenor solo, accompanied by "tutti gli stromenti" (all the instruments), "Ach, mein Sinn". This last number Bach replaced for a while with an even more wildly emotional piece, a bass aria, "Zerschmettert mich" (Destroy me), to which a soprano adds a chorale.
...
The crowd choruses, whose chromatic lines thrust their way through the texture, are ferocious. The arioso/aria pair, "Betrachte, meine Seel"/"Erwäge" (Consider, my Soul/Imagine) is Bach's most expansive interpolation, and "Erwäge" is probably the most difficult aria he ever wrote. Bach replaced this pair for a time with another tenor aria, but one imagines that he was finally glad to experience again those wonderful sonorities of the lute and the two viole d'amore
...
Something we do not find in John's account of the crucifixion is the earthquake of which Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak. Bach the dramatist evidently hated to do without it, for he interpolates here the appropriate two verses from Matthew. The tenor arioso "Mein Herz!" (My heart!) comments on the earthquake and continues its musical mood; the soprano aria with flutes and oboes da caccia, "Zerfliesse, mein Herze" (With tears overflowing) in turn continues the thought of the arioso. In the third version of the Saint John Passion, the one dated about 1730, Bach omitted this entire sequence, substituting a now lost orchestral sinfonia, but restored it for his final version.
...
In his second and third versions, he used one of the greatest of his chorale settings in an elaborate style, corresponding to the "O Mensch bewein'" with which the work then began. This is the setting of "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" that we now know as the final movement of the cantata Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23
....

...
This is extracted from Walter F. Bischof's web site:
In 2nd performance of SJP on 30th March 1725 following arias were included:

Aria S B, Flauto traverso I/II, Continuo: Himmel reiße, Welt erbebe
Aria T, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel
Aria T, Oboe I/II, Continuo: Ach windet euch nicht so, geplagte Seelen,
...

This I compiled in haste and you should not take it as a complete list of changes

John Pike wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] There was, indeed, a 1730s version, but I am not aware of any recordings of it.

John Pike wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To Stevan Vasiljevic] Very helpful. Thanks.

 

Drama in SJP

John Pike wrote (June 20, 2004):
Here are some extracts from two articles on the Bach Cantatas website about the drama in the SJP. I hope this clarifies any misunderstanding my previous e mail caused. It was, indeed, in the 1730s version that he temporarily dropped the bits from St Matthew's gospel.

See: http://www.bcg.org/Program_Notes/StJohn_694.html

John's version strips the passion story of its mission, fulfillment, and promise, omitting many of the symbolic, portentous, and stirring events. John relates so many of Jesus's teachings at the Last Supper that the scene cannot be included at all. Absent as well are the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the death of Judas, the ominous dream of Pilate's wife, and even the crowd's final acknowledgement that "truly he was the son of God."

Some of the omissions John makes were apparently just too much for Bach. He borrows from the gospel of Matthew for Peter's lament and for the earthquake, both of which are colorfully set.

All the cuts, as Bach clearly recognizes, help to focus the drama on Christ's trial before Pilate, a political, psychological and emotional conflict....

Nine choral movements, the last four mirroring the first four, revolve around the pivot point in the drama, the height of the psycho-emotional conflict, when Pilate searches for a way to release Christ while the high priests scream for Christ to die...

Also see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SJP-TNT.htm

"The history of the St. John Passion BWV 245 is more complex than that of Bach's other surviving setting of the Passion story, the St. Matthew Passion BWV 244. First performed in 1724, three years before the first version of the Matthew, this direct and deceptively "simple" oratorio was subjected to a revision the following year that resulted in the substitution of new choruses for the opening and concluding ones, and the insertion of three alternate arias in the body of the work. All of the music for this first revision survives.

In the early 1730s, Bach returned, in essence, to the 1724 sequence, but with a few modifications. In the intervening years, the "new" opening chorus, "O Mensch, bewein' dein Sünde gross", became the concluding chorus of Part One of the St. Matthew Passion, and thus was no longer available for use in the St. John. Furthermore, ecclesiastical authorities in Leipzig had evidently objected to Bach's insertion of two intensely dramatic sequences from the Gospel according to St. Matthew into the St. John Passion, and he removed them. Bach provided no replacement for the first of these excised interpolations, the passage describing Peter's remorse at his denial of Christ; but for the second, the earthquake episode after the Crucifixion, he substituted an instrumental sinfonia that has not come down to us. The aria that he wrote to replace "Ach mein Sinn" in this third form of the St. John Passion also has not been preserved. Finally, this third version did not have the chorale that follows the concluding chorus in the first version.

In the very last years of his life, Bach returned to the St. John Passion and confirmed the sequence of the original version, restoring both the final chorale and the interpolatiofrom the Gospel according to St. Matthew that he had omitted from the third version. On Good Friday, 1749, Bach gave a performance of the St. John Passion that turned out to be the last performance of a Passion setting that he himself directed, for the following year, he was too unwell to put one on, and he died on the 28th of July. This last performance was indeed a grand one; it called for a larger ensemble than he had used in previous productions, and it must have been a worthy valedictory to this important facet of Bach's musical life. This "final" version contains a puzzling doubling continuo part for "bassono grosso"; what kind of an instrument Bach intended this part to be played on is still a subject of controversy and uncertainty among Bach scholars. Of greater significance, however, at least to those who are interested in recordings of the St. John Passion, is Bach's reinstrumentation of the arioso "Betrachte meine Seel" and the following aria, "Erwäge". During the 25 years that had elapsed since the premiere performance, the lute, which Bach specifically calls for as a continuo instrument in the arioso, had become a rara avis indeed, and the two viole d'amore appear to have been unavailable, too. Accordingly, Bach rescored these numbers for two muted violins and harpsichord. One of the many ironies involving the St. John Passion on records is the infrequency with which one encounters the revised version of these numbers. Since the first complete recordings, the early version calling for the "obsolete" instruments has been the one preferred by all and sundry."

 

Continue on Part 5

Johannes-Passion BWV 245: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Sung in English | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Systematic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-7 | Part 2: Mvts. 6-14 | Part 3: Mvts. 15-20 | Part 4: Mvts. 21-26 | Part 5: Mvts. 27-32 | Part 6: Mvts. 36-40 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 245 - F. Brüggen | BWV 245 - S. Cleobury | BWV 245 - P. Dombrecht | BWV 245 - D, Fasolis | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 245 - N. Harnoncourt-H. Gillesberger | BWV 245 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 245 - E. Higginbottom | BWV 245 - E. Jochum | BWV 245 - E. Kleiber | BWV 245 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 245 - H. Max | BWV 245 - P. McCreesh | BWV 245 - H. Münch | BWV 245 - P. Neumann | BWV 245 - A. Parrott | BWV 245 - P. Pickett | BWV 245 - K. Richter | BWV 245 - H. Rilling | BWV 245 - P. Schreier | BWV 245 - R. Shaw | BWV 245 - K. Slowik | BWV 245 - M. Suzuki | BWV 245 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
Saint John Passion, BWV 245 [T.N. Towe] | The Passion of Saint John, BWV 245 [M. Steinberg] | St. John Passion [A. Wong & N. Proctor] | The St. John Passion on stage [U. Golomb] | Literary Origins of Bach’s St. John Passion: 1704-1717 [W. Hoffman] | Bach’s Passion Pursuit [W. Hoffman]

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýApril 23, 2010 ý15:44:30