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Markus-Passion BWV 247

Conducted by Ton Koopman

Recording

V-1

Markus-Passion BWV 247

Ton Koopman

Amsterdam Baroque Choir (Chorus Master - Ulrike Grosch) & Boys of the Sacramentskoor Breda (Chorus Master - Mark Timmermans) / Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra

Tenor (Evangelist) - Christoph Prégardien; Bass (Christus) - Peter Kooy, Soprano (Testis 1, Ancilla) – Sibylla Rubens, Alto - Bernhard Landauer, Tenor (Petrus, Judas, Miles, Centurio) – Paul Agnew, Bass (Pontifex, Pilatus, Testis 2) - Klaus Mertens

Erato

Sep 1999

2-CD / TT: 1:58:23

In a reconstruction by Ton Koopman

Koopman's Markus Passion

Marten Breuer
wrote (October 29, 1999):
< Wim Huisjes wrote: BTW: The Koopman reconstruction of St. Mark premiered in Stuttgart on Sept. 4. Haven't come across any reviews or other information. The CD release is scheduled for March 2000. Anybody know more? >
Yes indeed, I attended the performance, so I might tell you something about it.

What was most surprising for me: Different from any other reconstruction made before, Koopman left aside all the music from Trauerode BWV 198 etc. Instead, for his 'version' - 'reconstruction' doesn't seem the right word to me - Koopman used music from various cantatas. E.g. for the opening-chorus, Koopman took the music from BWV 25 movement 1 ('Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe') and combined it with the text from Henrici's libretto. The following day, Koopman told that he had made up to ten (!) different versions of each chorus/aria etc.

The gospel was set into music by Koopman himself, to my taste: very much Koopman, very little Bach. The chorales were all original 'Kirnbergers'.

The turba-choruses - another big problem. Here too, Koopman used music from opening choruses from various cantatas. E.g. the text 'Pfui dich, wie fein zerbrichst du den Tempel' was combined with movement 1 from BWV 179 ('Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei'). I found theses choruses much too long and too monumental as turba choruses normally use to be rather short.

The performance, however, was brilliant. Christoph Pregardien as Evangelist, Peter Kooy as Jesus and Klaus Mertens as solo bass did excellent jobs as they use to. Above all, the choir was outstanding.

The following day, there was a round table discussion with Christoph Wolff (Harvard University), Helmut Rilling and others participating. To me, it became quite clear that the 'experts' were very skeptical about what Koopman had done.

In sum: Lot of beautiful music, but also lots of questions to be answered.


St. Mark's Passion

Kirk McElhearn
wrote (February 1, 2000):
I saw that the Koopman St Mark's Passion is out. I am always skeptical about this sort of operation, trying to piece together something, imagining what it was. Has anyone heard it yet, or read any reviews?

Marten Breuer wrote (February 4, 2000):
(To Kirk McElhearn) I attended the world premiere performance of Koopman's St. Mark in Stuttgart, September last year. Although I've already reported about it in October, I might send my report again as at that time, there were not so many members at the new recordings discussion homepage. So here's my report:

What was most surprising for me: Different from any other reconstruction made before, Koopman left aside all the music from Trauerode BWV 198 etc. Instead, for his 'version' - 'reconstruction' doesn't seem the right word to me - Koopman used music from various cantatas. E.g. for the opening-chorus, Koopman elected the music from BWV 25 movement 1 ('Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe') combining it with the text from Henrici's libretto. The following day, there was a round table discussion where Koopman told that he had made up to ten (!) different versions of each chorus/aria etc.

The gospel was set into music by Koopman himself, to my taste: very much Koopman, very little Bach. The chorales were all original 'Kirnbergers'.

The turba-choruses - another big problem. Here too, Koopman used music from opening choruses from various cantatas. E.g. the text 'Pfui dich, wie fein zerbrichst du den Tempel' was combined with movement 1 from BWV 179 ('Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei'). I found theses choruses much too long and too monumental as turba choruses use to be rather short.

The performance, however, was brilliant. Christoph Prégardien as Evangelist, Peter Kooy as Jesus and Klaus Mertens as solo-bass did excellent jobs as they always do. Above all, the choir was outstanding.

Next day's round table discussion was attended by experts like Christoph Wolff, Helmut Rilling and others. To me, it became quite clear that they were v e r y skeptical about what Koopman had done.

In sum: lot of beautiful music, but also lots of questions to be answered.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 4, 2000):
(To Marten Breuer) Thanks for your report. I am very curious to hear the recording. To be honest I am not very surprised about your judgment. Some years ago I heard another performance (I can't remember what it was) for which Koopman had composed some recitatives. It didn't sound like Bach at all. It is very difficult to compose in the style of Bach, and maybe recitatives are most difficult, because it is there where Bach is especially one of a kind. His recitatives are not comparable with those of any other composer. Maybe other solutions, like borrowing the recitatives from Keiser, is still the best option.

Rob Potharst wrote (February 4, 2000):
(To Johan van Veen) Who is Keiser, and how can you borrow recitatives from Him? Just curious...

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 4, 2000):
(To Rob Potharst) Reinhard Keiser, 1674-1739, visited the Thomasschule in Leipzig, became Kapellmeister and opera director in Hamburg. Bach performed his St. Mark Passion at least 2 times, in Weimar and in Leipzig.


Ton Koopman's Markus Passion

Cor Knops
wrote (February 13, 2000):
INTERNET PREMIERE - SAMPLE FROM MARKS PASSION
We hereby announce the release of a new album by Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir; the Markus Passion. As most of you know only the text of this passion has survived. This text by Christian Friedrich Henrici (alias Picander) has been the basis for a reconstruction by Ton Koopman.

A quote from the booklet that goes with the CD: "Of all the difficulties I faced, the chorales proved the least problematic. Like my predecessors, I was able to find a sufficient number of solutions in the chorales published by Carl Philip Emanuel Bach and Kirnberger to make a personal choice. However, settings of the many recitatives were nowhere to be found, so I had no alternative but to compose them myself. Above all, I tried to ensure they were as close as possible to an eighteenth-century style and to Bach's own musical language, conscious nonetheless that he would have done far better. Still, I rather enjoyed the challenge of writing the recitatives myself." (Ton Koopman)

We have put a sample of this new recording on our site. It's the opening chorus. It can be found on the sample-page (you find a link on the index-page). It is quite big in file-size so be warned for long downloading.

Later this month an interview with Ton Koopman on this reconstruction will be placed on the Website. We will keep you informed.

CD INFO
Bach/Koopman
Markus Passion BWV 247
Sybylla Rubens, soprano
Bernard Landauer, alto
Christoph Prégardien, tenor (Evangelist)
Paul Agnew, tenor
Peter Kooy, bass (Christus)
Klaus Mertens, bass
Boys the Breda Sacrament Choir
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Ton Koopman
Erato 8573-80221-2 (2-CD)


Goodman / Koopman St. Mark Passion

Jaime Jean
wrote.:
Are the reconstructions of the St. Mark Passion by Roy Goodman and by Ton Koopman completely different works or are there any similarities? (performance aside). They are both based on the "parody" technique (highly questionable, considering that neither the SJP or SMP are parody works). Do they base their reconstruction on the same arias and choruses from the cantatas, or did each find a different set of cantata parts to parody?

Tom Hens wrote:
< Jaime Jean wrote: Are the reconstructions of the St. Mark Passion by Roy Goodman and by Ton Koopman completely different works >
Yes. See below.

< or are there any similarities? (performance aside). They are both based on the "parody" technique (highly questionable, considering that neither the SJP or SMP are parody works). >
It's not all that questionable, IMO. It makes perfect sense for Bach to have recycled music written for a one-off performance like the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198) into a work for regular use. The comparison wouldn't be the St. John or St. Matthew but the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), which is also largely based on cantatas composed for special occasions. And just like the Christmas Oratorio, one might surmise that this wasn't a post-factum decision, but that Bach and Picander planned it that way right from the start. Certainly Picander's libretto for the St. Mark fits a lot of the music from the Trauer-Ode like a glove. Such a highly consistent match in metrical structure, rhyming scheme and affect between two works by one librettist who worked closely with Bach is highly unlikely to have arisen purely by chance.

This is not exactly a new idea. From Simon Heighes's notes to his own St. Mark reconstruction (the one recorded by Goodman):
"The realisation that the St. Mark Passion was probably a parody work came as early as the 1860s when Wilhelm Rust, the editor of many volumes of the Bach Gesellschaft, was examining Picander's text of the St. Mark and noticed that several of the stanzas mirrored the metrical structure and rhyme scheme of the main choruses and arias of Bach's Trauer-Ode (cantata BWV 198) written in 1727. He concluded that Bach must have commissioned Picander to write the text of the St. Mark Passion in such a way that the chief numbers of Cantata 198 could be incorporated into the new Passion with the minimum alteration."

< Do they base their reconstruction on the same arias and choruses from the cantatas, or did each find a different set of cantata parts to parody? >
Simon Heighes takes the opening and closing choruses and three of the six arias from the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198) and one aria from BWV 54, which seems to be the scholarly consensus (I can post a more complete list if anyone is interested). There is less agreement on the source of the two remaining arias. Heighes takes one from BWV 204 ("Himmlische Vergnügsamkeit" becomes "Angenehmes Mordgeschrei"), and one from the 1725 version of the St. John (BWV 245), deleted in the 1730 version (the aria "Himmel reisse" becomes "Welt und Himmel") -- since we know some music migrated between the St. John and the St. Matthew, it doesn't seem unlikely a leftover from the St. John wandered into the St. Mark. The recitatives and turba choruses are largely taken from a Passion by Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739), which Bach is known to have performed on at least two occasions (in 1713 and 1736). (Interestingly, the words of Christ have the same string "halo" Bach adopted for the St. Matthew.)

Based on a review of Koopman's version in Diapason, I'm not sure his effort can even be described as an attempted reconstruction. He doesn't use the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198) at all, but instead imagined himself in the position of a pupil of Bach in 1731 given the task of choosing appropriate music from Bach's earlier cantatas for Picander's libretto. He composed the recitatives himself (I don't know what he did with the turba choruses). The reviewer for Diapason was more than puzzled by the fact that the CD booklet doesn't even specify which cantata movements Koopman used. Presenting it as "St. Mark Passion, BWV 247, ed. Ton Koopman" seems completely unjustified. Not that I don't like Koopman in general, but to be honest, based on what I've read I fail to see what the point of his exercise is.

Jaime Jean wrote (March 23, 2000):
(To Tom Hens) Thanks for your interesting replies.


St Mark Passion (ed Koopman)/Reconstructions

Johan van Veen
wrote (March 28, 2000):
Last Friday I attended a performance of Bach's St Mark Passion in the reconstruction by Ton Koopman. Since then I have borrowed the CD recording from the public library, which allowed me to listen to it again and look at some aspects in more detail. Here are my thoughts about it.

As you will know the music Bach composed for the St Mark Passion has gone lost completely. Several attempts have been made to perform this work. Different solutions have been looked for. Every reconstruction is based on the assumption that Bach re-used previously written music. That is the only way to perform this piece, but there is no evidence whatsoever that this is what Bach did. It is not impossible that he composed new music. For the arias, choruses and chorales the music is taken from other works. The recitatives are problematic. I don't think Bach ever re-used recitatives. They are so closely linked to a certain text that it is almost impossible to adapt them to other words. Therefore sometimes music by contemporaries is used, or music from another period in order to make a clear distinction with Bach's own music. Ton Koopman wasn't satisfied with the solutions others have found. I quote from the booklet: "Acting as though I were one of Bach's pupils, I imagined myself being given the following assignment in a composition lesson: 'Here is a libretto; set it to music using whatever you find in the works I wrote up until now (1731). What you do not find, compose yourself'". Hence I think that Ton Koopman's edition has to be assessed on the basis of these two questions: a) does the music he has chosen match the text?; b) does the music he composed himself indeed come close to the style of Bach or his time?

As far as the first question is concerned: during the concert I sometimes didn't believe what I heard. Listening again to the CD recording confirmed my impression that regularly text and music don't match. From time to time the accents are on different places. Sometimes there are not enough notes for the text, and then the last note is simply repeated. It happens that in a repeat a word is shortened. For instance, in the bass aria "Mein Heyland, dich vergeßich nicht" in the second line the bass first sings "Ich habe dich" and later - otherwise the text is too long for the music - "ich hab'" I can't remember that ever happening in any of Bach's works. In the aria "Angenehmes Mord-Geschrey" there are melismas which I think are inappropriate regarding the text. In the second chorus on the words "Creutzige ihn" the accent is on the wrong syllable: the second. Secondly, the recitatives. They sound like everything except Bach. On some places there are reminiscences of Bach's recitatives, in particular in parts of the texts which are almost exactly like those in the other passions. But on the whole they sound very strange. There are many modulations, but they don't always make sense. As in the arias here are strange accents too. Sometimes a part of a recitative closes with a falling fourth, and then a short piece of text follows, like a vermiform appendix. Sometimes a phrase ignores the comma in the text, on other places there is a split in the middle of a sentence. On several places a note is repeated three times at the end of a phrase, which seems very unnatural to me. The evangelist regularly sings melismas - again that seemed very strange. I chethe SMP: in the whole first part it happens only once - on "zittern (und zagen)", a highly emotional passage. Bachs recitatives are often surprising, but nevertheless logical. I haven't been able to discover any logic in Ton Koopman's recitatives. They are rather disorientated.

Some other aspects.
Some 'turbae' are so elaborated that they lose their impact - compare them with the very powerful 'turbae' in the St John Passion. Obviously Ton Koopman thought the number of arias was too small. He added one: "Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel", an aria Bach used in the second version of the St John Passion (1725) as a replacement for "Ach, mein Sinn". He seemed not happy with that one - it was removed later and never used again. It is a rather operatic piece as frequently used in 18th century passion oratorios. As in the SJP it is sung directly after Peter's denial. But Ton Koopman has done more. He has given the role of Peter to a tenor - in both other passions it is a bass. As a consequence this aria gets a personal character, as if Peter is speaking here. But you don't find any kind of 'personalisation' of the arias in Bach's passions. Obviously Bach didn't want a link between a person and an aria. All the arias are related to the audience. In this case: the listener should think that he himself is like Peter and that in his place he would have denied Jesus as well. Therefore it is no surprise to find an alto aria in SMP and a tenor aria in SJP after the denial of Peter (a bass). In this respect Bach's passions are strikingly different from the passion oratorios of his time, in which arias are given to Peter, Judas and even Jesus. Koopman's decision is a very strange change of Bach's concept. There are two duets in this reconstruction. (There is only one in SMP, none in SJP). For the duet of soprano and alto "Er kommt, er kommt, er ist vorhanden" Koopman uses a duet from cantata BWV 4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden). A very unfortunate choice, since that is a chorale cantata, every section of which is an arrangement of the chorale. That chorale has twice as many lines as the aria. So there are four lines left. The last two lines of the aria are repeated several times. Bach has used chorale melodies in his arias, but this is different. The continuous repetition of these two lines (and here music and text also don't match very well) is an indication that this isn't the best choice to make. I also question the version of the chorale "Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn". It is a strophe from Luther's chorale "Ein feste Burg". It is sung here in a rhythmic version, but I think those were out of fashion in Bach's days. Just compare this with the closing chorale of cantata BWV 80. Only the opening and closing choruses seem satisfying to me. Otherwise I find the version by Simon Heighes (recorded by Roy Goodman) more convincing..

In case anyone has heard the concert or recording, please give your comments. I am very interested to hear other people's opinions.

Tjako van Schie wrote (March 29, 2000):
(To Johan van Veen) (I reply on top, as I do not want readers to scroll too much before reaching my reply. Sorry for that... the original message is under this reply)

Concerning reconstructions.
I have heared the "Kruidvat" "Bach" - Markus Passion (Simon Heighes - reconstruction). Also here I have many question marks to put to the musical logics... apparently, reconstructing a piece that's gone is even more difficult than ending a piece which is almost finished, like Mozart's Requiem (Süssmaier did quite a good job), although also in that case you simply notice that something is 'wrong'. After all: a composer always shows his very individual style and spirit ("soul") in his compositions. If someone tries to imitate it will remain imitation, i.m.o. In a large work like the Markus Passion it is almost impossible to come up with a good solution, as we cannot know anymore what Bach's Masterplan (Architecture) in form and content would have been. Especially in a large work the balance of all parts is part of the composition. Making a 'mosaical' reconstruction of other works is as bad as composing 'new' music in 'old' style. Even I can create a fugue a la Bach, but anyone familiar with Bach's music will notice immediately it's a "fraud", as I am not Bach (unfortunately and fortunately!).

When one stops listening to these types of reconstructions as-if-they-were-listening-to-Bach, one might nevertheless enjoy some of the music (although not Bach afterall).

Concerning Koopman
I think (but maybe I am too critical now...as many people will adore him...) Koopman i.m.o. is not the best Bach interpret around. He can play harpsichord very well, and he can conduct very well, but in many of his concerts and cd's I personally miss "soul" and "connection" between him as the performer/conductor and music. My feeling is: (I may be wrong, but this my personal view, and many won't agree with me here...) Koopman, like many musicians, sometimes is more of an "exhibitional" artist, eager to be on stage and in the centre of where it happens, than a true dedicated musician. Many times Koopman really 'beats' the music, and I think especially Bach's beautiful music NEVER should be beaten. Bach's music is full of love and subtleties (even the more descriptive pieces like many of the choir parts of the passions: they are depicting violence with proper affects but the music works soothening and comforting, even then! never becomes aggressive! That's probably also the main function of these affects: to depict powerful and suggestive emotions and to give true meaning or sense to them, without the need to the performer of audience of getting them in real life... imagine an audience, influenced by Koopman, that leaves the concert and overwhelmed as they are, like kids with violent videogames, go on the street, shouting full of agression, because they listended to "Bach"!) and a performer should not USE his music, but should SERVE it. Koopman often doesn't... maybe Koopmans is too much under 'rapid' performing stress in order to take more rest and time to delve deeper into Bach's music?

Sybrand Bakker wrote (March 29, 2000):
(To Tjako van Schie) I reply on top too, becuase otherwise this post is going to be a mess. First of all, Tjako, I don't know why you consistently write Koopmans instead of Koopman, if you would really know him, you wouldn't do that. I have followed Ton Koopman since 1974, and I must admit I am getting more and more uneasy about what he is doing. Yesterday I listened to a broadcast of a concert with cantatas, and I got a bit worried, as the quality of the choir was awful: it sounded they sang out of tune and unequal. I know for sure that won't happen on the final recording, and probably you won't hear it there because they just record measure for measure and 'glue' everything together. Maybe Ton Koopman should just stop his race with time, to record as much as possible, after all he is only 55 or 56, and he has some 15 years to go at least.

Personally, I don't believe Ton Koopman is 'exhibitionist'. You maybe just choose the wrong word, he is extrovert, he definitely isn't introvert, or introspective. He has always been able to look at 'the bright side of life', and that's maybe why he just doesn't know how to play an adagio, he is always playing 'bright', even when the tempo is slow. The exact opposite occurs with Philippe Herreweghe, somehow all his allegros are a bit dim.

Of course, both your and my opinion are personal judgments, I have always considered John Eliot Gardiner as someone who just doesn't understand Bach, and for you that is Ton Koopman.

Johan van Veen wrote (March 29, 2000):
< Tjako van Schie wrote: When one stops listening to these types of reconstructions as-if-they-were-listening-to-Bach, one might nevertheless enjoy some of the music (although not Bach afterall). >
I would agree here. I wouldn't have a problem with Koopman's edition, if he would have said: I have composed my own music, and I have used some music by Bach, and would have presented it as his own St MarkPassion. But the CD says Bach: St Mark Passion, and then: reconstruction by Ton Koopman. And I wouldn't have problems, if he hadn't written that he attempted to compose recitatives in a style as closely as possible to Bach's own style. That attempt has clearly failed. There is a difference between completing a score where some parts are missing, and reconstructing a piece, where all original music has gone lost.

< Concerning Koopman:
I think (but maybe I am too critical now...as many people will adore him...) Koopman i.m.o. is not the best Bach interpret around. He can play harpsichord very well, and he can conduct very well, but in many of his concerts and cd's I personally miss "soul" and "connection" between him as the performer/conductor and music. My feeling is: (I may be wrong, but this my personal view, and many won't agree with me here...) Koopmans, like many musicians, sometimes is more of an "exhibitional" artist, eager to be on stage and in the centre of where it happens, than a true dedicated musician. Many times Koopman really 'beats' the music, and I think especially Bach's beautiful music NEVER should be beaten. Bach's music is full of love and subtleties (even the more descriptive pieces like many of the choir parts of the passions: they are depicting violence with proper affects but the music works soothening and comforting, even then! never becomes aggressive! That's probably also the main function of these affects: to depict powerful and suggestive emotions and to give true meaning or sense to them, without the need to the performer of audience of getting them in real life... imagine an audience, influenced by Koopmans, that leaves the concert and overwhelmed as they are, like kids with violent videogames, go on the street, shouting
full of agression, because they listended to "Bach"!) and a performer should not USE his music, but should SERVE it. Koopmans often doesn't... maybe Koopman is too much under 'rapid' performing stress in order to take more rest and time to delve deeper into Bach's music? >
As you will know by now I am very critical about what Koopman is doing with Bach. But I don't doubt his integrity for a minute. I simply refuse to believe he only uses Bach's music to display his own qualities. Of course his personality is reflected in his performances. In the Teldec cantata series the difference in personalities between Harnoncourt and Leonhardt has become more and more audible as the series progressed. There is nothing wrong with that as such. To decide to what extent he has an "inner connection" with Bach is difficult to decide. I certainly sympathise with your experience in this regard, since I have had doubts about it since long. His interpretation of Bach's organ music enhances my doubts. But so far I haven't been able to put a finger on what exactly is the cause of the fact that most of his performances leave me cold and fail to touch me.

Tjako van Schie wrote (March 29, 2000):
< Sybrand Bakker wrote: I reply on top too, becuase otherwise this post is going to be a mess. First of all, Tjako, I don't know why you consistently write Koopmans instead of Koopman, if you would really know him, you wouldn't do that. (Snip) >
I am sorry Sybrand. But I always mix up Ton's last name with this Dutch pancake mix which I regularly buy for my family :) (Koopmans Mix, this is stuff I certainly prefer to buy over Ton Koopman's CD's....)

Furthermore I agree on your dislike of Koopman.

Harry Steinman wrote (March 29, 2000):
I don't have all the knowledge that those of us that have discussed the Koopman reconstruction have...and I wouldn't recognize 1/10 of the technical criticism I've heard about the reconstruction. But I DO have tix to see K in New York in 11 days. So, while I can't evaluate the comments makde by Tjako van Schie and by Johan van Veen, I can certainly report back and say, "I enjoyed it" or "It stunk". To paraphrase the old adage, "I don't know a lot about music, but I know what I like"

Anyway, I've been planning to attend this performance for months and I enjoy the controversy! I can't wait to take sides!

PS I chose not to include the original messages because I don't believe I have much to add...


Koopman's Bach St. Mark Passion

Thomas J. Wood
wrote (April 2, 2000):
I just saw this last night at Best Buys, but was reluctant to plonk down $32 for it (2 disks). I have most of Koopman's cantata series, so I know what to expect. And I know the piece is a conjectural reconstruction from BWV 198 and other cantatas. But has anyone heard this?

Johan van Veen wrote (April 2, 2000):
I have given my thoughts on this recording on a mailing list. Because I am lazy I copy it here. (Sorry for the first part, which you will know already.)

As you will know the music Bach composed for the St Mark Passion has gone lost completely. Several attempts have been made to perform this work. Different solutions have been looked for. Every reconstruction is based on the assumption that Bach re-used previously written music. That is the only way to perform this piece, but there is no evidence whatsoever that this is what Bach did. It is not impossible that he composed new music. For the arias, choruses and chorales the music is taken from other works. The recitatives are problematic. I think Bach hardly ever re-used recitatives. They are so closely linked to a certain text that it is almost impossible to adapt them to other words. Therefore sometimes music by contemporaries is used, or music from another period in order to make a clear distinction with Bach's own music. Ton Koopman wasn't satisfied with the solutions others have found. I quote from the booklet: "Acting as though I were one of Bach's pupils, I imagined myself being given the following assignment in a composition lesson: 'Here is a libretto; set it to music using whatever you find in the works I wrote up until now (1731). What you do not find, compose yourself'". Hence I think that Ton Koopman's edition has to be assessed on the basis of these two questions: a) does the music he has chosen match the text?; b) does the music he composed himself indeed come close to the style of Bach or his time?

As far as the first question is concerned: during the concert I sometimes didn't believe what I heard. Listening again to the CD recording confirmed my impression that regularly text and music don't match. From time to time the accents are on different places. Sometimes there are not enough notes for the text, and then the last note is simply repeated. It happens that in a repeat a word is shortened. For instance, in the bass aria "Mein Heyland, dich vergeß ich nicht" in the second line the bass first sings "Ich habe dich" and later - otherwise the text is too long for the music - "ich hab'". I can't remember that ever happening in any of Bach's works. In the aria "Angenehmes Mord-Geschrey" there are melismas which I think are inappropriate regarding the text. In the second chorus on the words "Creutzige ihn" the accent is on the wrong syllable: the second. Secondly, the recitatives. They sound like everything except Bach. On some places there are reminiscences of Bach's recitatives, in particular in parts of the texts which are almost exactly like those in the other passions. But on the whole they sound very strange. There are many modulations, but they don't always make sense. As in the arias here are strange accents too. Sometimes a part of a recitative closes with a falling fourth, and then a short piece of text follows, like a vermiform appendix. Sometimes a phrase ignores the comma in the text, on other places there is a split in the middle of a sentence. On several places a note is repeated three times at the end of a phrase, which seems very unnatural to me. The evangelist regularly sings melismas - again that seemed very strange. I checked the SMP: in the whole first part it happens only once - on 'zittern (und zagen)", a highly emotional passage. Bachs recitatives are often surprising, but nevertheless logical. I haven't been able to discover any logic in Ton Koopman's recitatives. They are rather disorientated.

Some other aspects.
Some 'turbae' are so elaborated that they lose their impact - compare them with the very powerful 'turbae' in the St John Passion. Obviously Ton Koopman thought the number of arias was too small. He added one: "Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel", an aria Bach used in the second version of the St John Passion (1725) as a replacement for "Ach, mein Sinn". He seemed not happy with that one - it was removed later and never used again. It is a rather operatic piece as frequently used in 18th century passion oratorios. As in the SJP it is sung directly after Peter's denial. But Ton Koopman has done more. He has given the role of Peter to a tenor - in both other passions it is a bass. As a consequence this aria gets a personal character, as if Peter is speaking here. But you don't find any kind of 'personalisation' of the arias in Bach's passions. Obviously Bach didn't want a link between a person and an aria. All the arias are related to the audience. In this case: the listener should think that he himself is like Peter and that in his place he would have denied Jesus as well. Therefore it is no surprise to find an alto aria in SMP and a tenor aria in SJP after the denial of Peter (a bass). In this respect Bach's passions are strikingly different from the passion oratorios of his time, in which arias are given to Peter, Judas and even Jesus. Koopman's decision is a very strange change of Bach's concept. There are two duets in this reconstruction. (There is only one in SMP, none in SJP). For the duet of soprano and alto "Er kommt, er kommt, er ist vorhanden" Koopman uses a duet from Cantata BWV 4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden). A very unfortunate choice, since that is a chorale cantata, every section of which is an arrangement of the chorale. That chorale has twice as many lines as the aria. So there are four lines left. The last two lines of the aria are repeated several times. Bach has used chorale melodies in his arias, but this is different. The continuous repetition of these two lines (and here music and text also don't match very well) is an indication that this isn't the best choice to make. I also question the version of the chorale "Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn". It is a strophe from Luther's chorale "Ein feste Burg". It is sung here in a rhythmic version, but I think those were out of fashion in Bach's days. Just compare this with the closing chorale of Cantata BWV 80. Only the opening and closing choruses seem more satisfying to me. Otherwise I find the version by Simon Heighes (recorded by Roy Goodman) more convincing..

But the question remains whether the St Mark Passion should be reconstructed at all. It would be worth the effort if any of Bach's music would still exist. But if we start to try to reconstruct every text which we know a composer has set to music, where will it end? Why not try to compose p.e. Schütz' Dafne or Monteverdi's Arianna?

Hou Fang-Lin wrote (April 2, 2000):
(To Johan van Veen) Please, Johan, can you tell me on which mailing list you write articles like this and how one can subscribe to it?

Johan van Veen wrote (April 3, 2000):
(To Hou Fang-Lin) Go to http://www.mcelhearn.com/bach.html and there you'll find three mailing lists: Bach Recordings (that is the one for which I wrote the review), Bach Cantatas and Early Music Recordings. As you will find out, subscribing is very simple. See you there, I hope.

Evan Johnson wrote (April 2, 2000):
(To Thomas J. Wood) There is an interesting article about it in this Sunday's New York Times "Arts & Leisure" section. The conclusion is basically that it's totally inauthentic because the reconstruction is an impossible task, but as long as you realize that it's basically just an arrangement of other Bach pieces and bits by Koopman in the style of Bach it can be interesting.

David R.L. Porter wrote (April 2, 2000):
(To Evan Johnson) I had a recording of it years ago in a boxed LP set, but sold it. It was, as you say, 'interesting', but I didn't miss it nearly as much as the Mengelberg St Matthew Passion I sold at the same time. The Mark Passion, I'm pretty sure, had Kurt Equiluz as one of the soloists. I can't remember who issued it and I can't find it in the Stereo Guides and Penguin Guides of the period.

George Murnu wrote (April 4, 2000):
(To Davis R.L. Porter) I think it was conducted by Wolfgang Gönnenwein.

Lani Spahr wrote (April 4, 2000):
(To George Murnu) It was a Musical Heritage Society release at one point - Bach, JS St. Mark Passion (reconstructed by Diethard Hellmann) S247 Gönnenwein, Wolfgang Bach Collegium Stuttgart & South German Madrigal Choir, Stuttgart - Erwin, Liskin, Jelden.

David R.L. Porter wrote (April 6, 2000):
(To Lani Spahr) Sorry to muddy the waters further but I think it may have been the 'Luke' Passion I sold… I can't remember (it was the early 1970's). I am pretty sure Equiluz was a soloist but Gönnenwein sounds familiar too. Also I seem to remember it was very attractively boxed, like a sumptious Orff Kluge I had at the time, or the gorgeously boxed Müller Händel Organ Concertos on Archive that I still have and play.

Juan I. Cahis wrote (April 4, 2000):
< Evan Johnson wrote: There is an interesting article about it in this Sunday's New York Times="Arts & Leisure" section. The conclusion is basically that it's totally =
inauthentic because the reconstruction is an impossible task… >
I strongly disagree with this opinion. There is practically no doubt about the text, choruses and arias (excerpt one); and that counts for about one half of the work. The dramatic numbers, however (recitatives, turba choruses, etc.) are lost.

Critics are very conservative, and they normally have the tendency to invalidate musicological research too easily… When Deryck Cooke first published his performing version of Mahler's Tenth, horror cries came from many places, but today when the original manuscripts and his score are both published, all the old critics are silent. The same will happen with Carragan's and SMPC's completion of the Finale of Bruckner's Ninth, no doubt!!!

Johan van Veen wrote (April 4, 2000):
(To Juan I. Cahis) You are wrong there. All the music is lost, only the textbook has survived. All the suggestions as to which arias Bach may have re-used for his St Mark's Passion are pure speculation, convincing perhaps, but speculation nevertheless. Even the assumption that Bach only re-used existing material and didn't compose anything new (except for the text of the gospel - recitatives and turbae) cannot be proved. There is a fundamental difference between finishing a composition - like Mozart's Requiem - and reconstructing a work which has been lost completely.

Evan Johnson wrote (April 4, 2000):
(To Juan I. Cahis) But this is not a completion. There is NO music. All we have is a partial text. Much of the music Koopman uses is from other Bach works which seem to fit the scansion, form, etc. of the extant texts and thus may possibly have been reused.

What it is is a Bach potpourri with new texts, interspersed by recitatives by Koopman in the style of Bach. This is a musical reconstruction from nothing, which isn't comparable to the work done by Sussmayr, Cooke, Cerha, Payne, (well, maybe Payne), etc.

Ferd Op de Coul wrote (April 3, 2000):
I heard Koopman's St.Marks Passion and I can recommend this new reconstruction, that is in my view, better than the wellknown reconstruction by Dr. Simon Heighes. Nevertheless, both versions have their own values, but I think, Koopman's own recitatives are, in spite of beeing not composed by Bach himself,

very well made in the spirit of the great master.


St Mark Passion Performance

Harry J. Steinman
wrote (April 10, 2000):
I'm sitting on the train riding back from New York to Boston, savoring the memories of a wonderful performance given by Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Chorus (soloists included Klaus Mertens and Peter Kooy (Bass), Deborah York (Soprano), Annette M(Alto), Max Ciolek (Tenor, Evangelist), Paul Agnew (Tenor).

The performance was given at the St. Ignatius Loyola church, a wonderful and beautiful building and Christopher Wolfe gave a brief pre-concert lecture that was mostly an explanation of how Koopman went about the task of reconstruction.

Before I offer my impressions of this performance (Koopman and the ABO recorded the Markus Passion on Erato, 80221) let me offer a caveat, that I don't have the musical training, vocabulary or knowledge to critique the perfomance in the detail that has been done recently by our Dutch friends, Johan van Veen, Tjako van Schie or Sybrand Bakker...things like how a phrase is accented is well beyond my grasp. So, my comments have more to do with the overall experience, the gestalt.

The work itself is large, 64 movements which includes only 8 choruses and arias (compared with 10 for the St John Passion, SJP, and 17 for the St Matthew Passion, SMP) but it has 16 chorales (compared with 11 in the SJP and 13 in the SMP). For my personal taste, the Picander text includes 32 recitatives are a bit too much; I'm not crazy about recitatives. (Wolfe explained that the church in which the passion was to be performed would not allow any paraphrase of biblical text; hence there are a lot of recitatives, and some of them are fairly extended.) But I did not find that Koopman's composing these detracted from the work. In fact there were a few that I found very moving, largely because of the singer's expressiveness and K's interpretation.

Overall, the work was wonderfully sung and conducted. I imagine that Koopman is a pleasure to play for as I could see the faces on the chorus-the expressions of singers who were thoroughly taken by the work. The violinists were swaying, the principal violinist in particular, and I enjoyed watching the chorus and orchestra being moved, literally, by the music.

There were a few highlights that I'd like to share with you. The 13th movement is a bass aria, "Mein Heyland, dich vergess ich nicht" ("My savior, I shall not forget thee"... For me, this aria was probably the core of the passion. It's an extended aria that begins with the flute playing a descending figure and the flute and singer form a duet, if you will. The music begins simply, almost hestitantly, and builds up its fervor. I heard it as the singer's sorrow developing into faith, hope. I wish I could direct you to the aria that this parodies, but I don't yet have the CD. I wasn't able to hear the technical difficulties with phrasing and accents that Johan van Veen identified; as I said, I don't have the education to render those judgments. All I can say is that I found the experience of this aria very moving. Another list member, Aya Otio, wrote me she'd heard Mertens was sick. If he was under the weather it did not affect his singing!

The duet, "Er kommt, er kommt, er ist vorhanden!" ("See there, see there, he is at hand!" Soprano, Alto) which parodies a movement from BWV 4, 'Christ lag in Todesbanden'. The duet brought me to tears. I could listen to Deborah York all day long and this was a wonderful introduction to Alto Annette Markert. Listening to this wonderful moment, and seeing the singers being moved by the music was one of the highlights of the concert. Again, Johan van Veen notes that since BWV 4 is a chorale cantata, its use for a duet (and the fact that there are extra lines left over in the aria) may be an inappropriate choice. I cannot dispute that; I rest happily in my ignorance and simply enjoyed the living daylights out of this movement! I guess ignorance is truly bliss (or in this case, the gateway to enjoyment???)!

Other highlights for me were the chorale, "Ich, ich und meine Sunden" ("It is I and my sins") So sweet, delicate. Koopman's role as conductor shines here!...the interplay between violins and the Tenor in "Falsche Welt, dein schmeichelnd Kussen" ("Treacherous workd, thy flattering kisses")...the chorale that closes the first half ('Before the Sermon') of the work, "Ich will hier bey dir stehen" ("I will stay beside thee, do not leave me now...") was wonderful. The orchestration is carried by the oboe v. strings (earth and heaven? Men and angels???) and it grows in complexity as the movement progresses. So does the chorus until the 4-part singing held my heart and my attention well past the moment when the last notes decayed into the wonderful church in which this work was perrformed....and curiously, I was impressed by the scarves/shawls worn by the two female soloists-Deborah York had a nice shiny lavender one and Annette Markert had this cool black shawl that she wrapped herself in after her only aria in the first half...Finally, was moved by how completely and how richly the cello filled the chuch-some of the bass arias were accompanied only by cello and organ and it didn't look like the cellist was trying to make big sound but the

sound was really encompassing...

Forgive me but I kept less careful notes of what I'd heard in the second half ('After the Sermon'). All I can say is this: I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I would have to listen to the CD for a while to comment much more. There is the possibility that the work, as a whole, was a bit disjointed, but I cannot tell if there is a deficiency in the reconstruction, or whether this reaction of mine is only due to being unfamiliar with the work.

Should any of you choose to purchase the CD, or should you have the chance to attend (I know that Marie Jensen and Aya Otoi will be!) I'd love to hear your reactions. I do think that Koopman's reconstruction is relevant: He certainly has the credentials to be taken quite seriously. Wolfe's pre-concert discussion of how K went about creating the reconstruction convinced me of the soundness of K's work. And listening to the concert I concluded that there was nowhere else I'd rather have been yesterday afternoon, than attending this performance.


Koopman's credentials

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 14, 2000): 2:07
< Harry Steinman wrote: [snip thoughtful review of Markus-Passion performance] Should any of you choose to purchase the CD, or should you have the chance to attend (I know that Marie Jensen and Aya Otoi will be!) I'd love to hear your reactions. I do think that Koopman's reconstruction is relevant: He certainly has the credentials to be taken quite seriously. >
While Koopman has long experience as a performer of Bach, I don't know that he is particularly credentialed as a scholar. It's not the same thing.

His one piece of ostensibly scholarly writing that I've seen -- his article on the one-singer-per-part debate in EARLY MUSIC -- was unimpressive (to put it charitably) with respect to both evidence presented and reasoning. (I have heard it called, by a musician with fairly solid scholarly experience and reputation, "the most pathetic piece of pseudo-musicology I've ever seen in English." I can't really disagree.)

The apparent endorsement by so famous a Bach scholar as Christoph Wolff of Koopman's reconstruction is more impressive. (Although Wolff is primarily a Bach biographer, no?)

Harry J. Steinman (April 14, 2000): 3:33
(To Matthew Westphal ) Point well taken, Matthew. I just ordered the recording of the Markus Passion by K. and when it arrives I'll be better able to evaluate the piece. Put it this way, I enjoyed the performance; I may think differently when I study the recording.

In the meantime, I just got the McCreech Epiphany Mass and I'm listening to it as we 'speak'... I'm totally stoked-it's great!

PS I don't know how far I'd go in saying that Wolfe endorsed the reconstruction...he certainly explained how K did it in very objective terms. But then, I guess, simply appearing on the bill is kind of an endorsement.

John Graves wrote (April 14, 2000): 4:23
(To Matthew Westphal ) I don't see why you assume that Christoph Wolff endorses Koopman's reconstruction. As far as I can tell, he merely contracted with Lincoln Center to give a pre-performance lecture. He did the same thing when I saw Andras Schiff play the French Suites at Lincoln Center in February--I think Wolff is giving several pre-performanlectures on Bach works this season.

Ryan Michero wrote (April 14, 2000): 6:50
< Matthew Westphal wrote: The apparent endorsement by so famous a Bach scholar as Christoph Wolff of Koopman's reconstruction is more impressive. (Although Wolff is primarily a Bach biographer, no?) >
Not really. Wolff is a scholar, historian, and musicologist that has specialized in J.S. Bach and the Bach family for some time now. I have no doubt that he knows as much about Bach as anyone else in the world.

I quote from the inner sleeve of THE LEARNED MUSICIAN:
"Christoph Wolff is William Powell Mason Professor of Music and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. He is coauthor of the BACH COMPENDIUM, coeditor of the research journal BACH-JAHRBUCH, and author of THE NEW GROVE BACH FAMILY. Thirty-two of his numerous journal articles have been collected in his BACH: ESSAYS ON HIS LIFE AND MUSIC."

I assume that Koopman and Wolff are friends as they have worked closely together in the past. Certainly they discussed the matter of the new St. Mark, and there's every reason to think that Wolff would have been more involved if he really agreed with what Koopman wanted to do. Perhaps it is telling that the new St. Mark is not "reconstructed by Ton Koopman and Christoph Wolff".

Johan: Did you mention something about Wolff being critical of Koopman's reconstruction?

Johan van Veen wrote (April 14, 2000): 10:11
(To Ryan Michero) It is not easy to tell to what extent scholars are involved in recording projects. But it is a fact that some scholars write the notes for CD booklets of completely different recordings. I don't think the very fact that they write these notes does imply they agree with the interpretation. It could well be that they have never heard the recording for which they write their notes. After all, being a scholar and being a critic are different things. But I suppose the fact that Wolff and Koopman work together makes it a little difficult for Wolff to criticise Ton Koopman's performances in public.

Koopman presented his version of the St Mark's Passion for the first time at the Bach Akademie in Stuttgart in September 1998 (he has made some changes since - at that time he presented it as a "work in progress"). On the day after the concert there was a conference by Bach scholars. I think I read somewhere that on the whole most scholars were not impressed with Koopman's edition. I also think that Christoph Wolff was the chairman of that conference, which will have prevented him from commenting on it anyway.

But the notes in the CD recording are interesting. There are two contributions: the first is by Ton Koopman, in which he tells something about his approach (without reference to the material he used - an unforgiveable omission, IMO), the second by Christoph Wolff, who outlines the state of affairs regarding the St Mark Passion. He doesn't say anything about Koopman's reconstruction, but from what he does say one could conclude that he doesn't agree with Koopman's solutions. As you will know Simon Heighes' reconstruction uses material from cantata BWV 198. Koopman is not convinced that this is the right thing to do. That was one of the reasons for his own efforts. But here is what Wolff says: "Bach scholars very soon recognised that the structure of the St Mark Passion text indicates that Bach intended to reuse music already written. As early as 1873, Wilhelm Rust advanced plausible arguments for the existence of links between the Funeral Ode BWV 198, the funeral music for Leopold von Köthen BWV 244a, and the St Mark Passion. For example, the texts of the opening chorus of all three works have the same metre and rhyme scheme". This sounds more like an endorsement of Simon Heighes' version than of Koopman's. (This is what Koopman says: "It struck me that there were excellent alternatives to the Funeral Ode, which I firmly believe is a much more suitable candidate for the reconstruction of the Köthen Funeral Music, than of the St Mark Passion. Indeed, cantata BWV 198 is far less in keeping with the rest of the work than is generally thought; for example, the unison passages in the closing chorus are wholly incompatible with the text of the St Mark Passion".)

I think on the basis of this quotations one can hardly argue that Wolff endorses Koopman's edition.

Marten Breuer wrote (April 14, 2000): 15:31
< Johan van Veen wrote: Koopman presented his version of the St Mark's Passion for the first time at the Bach Akademie in Stuttgart in September 1998 (he has made some changes since - at that time he presented it as a "work in progress"). On the day after the concert there was a conference by Bach scholars. I think I read somewhere that on the whole most scholars were not impressed with Koopman's edition. I also think that Christoph Wolff was the chairman of that conference, which will have prevented him from commenting on it anyway. >
Exactly, Johan. I attended the discussion which took about an hour. Christoph Wolff being the chairman evidently tried to stay as neutral as he could, calling Ton Koopman his 'friend'. However, I think it was him who critically asked why Koopman had inserted one aria from the St. John Passion.

Others were more direct. Hans-Joachim Schulze (director of the Bach Archiv Leipzig) frankly confessed that he had applauded only the choir as he could hardly imagine how the singers had coped with singing so many syllables. He argued whether the new approach to Bach would be using his music as a 'quarry'.

Helmut Rilling found some of Koopman's 'reconstrutions' well done, others not. He criticized that in some cases, the rhythm of the text didn't fit the rhythm of the music. Koopman replied that he had made up to ten different versions of each aria and then chosen the most suitable.

Robert Levin, who has made a reconstruction of Mozart's Requiem, pointed out that there was a big difference between a 'reconstruction' and Koopman's 'pasticcio'.

That's all I can remember, but as you can see, most of the scholars did not 'endorse' Koopman's version of the St. Mark Passion at all!

Jane Newble wrote (April 14, 2000): 21:59
(To Harry J. Steiman) I did not read this into Harry's words, and as far as I can see he did not use the word 'scholar'. I also think that Koopman has the credentials to be taken seriously. He has given a lot of time and energy to understanding Bach and performing his music, and on account of that alone he has every right to reconstruct a lost work. 'Credentials' in the Oxford dictionary simply means: "evidence of achievement or trustworthiness", and I'm sure no-one can argue with that, whether Koopman's work is liked or not. Even if scholars disagreed with the way Koopman has done the reconstruction, that still does not alter his right to do it, as an artist. The fact that he has been awarded an honours degree by a Dutch Faculty of Theology for his work on Bach means that at least some people appreciate him.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 14, 2000): 22:50
(To Jane Newble) But that caused surprise. Originally honorary degrees were given to people with scientific credentials, although they never had been at any university. Over the years that honour has been given to people as a sort of reward for important achievements in politics or society. That considering one could argue that an honorary degree is justified. But what caused most surprise was that he got a degree in theology, although he has never published anything on the relationship between Bach and theology, nor has he shown any particular interest in that subject. Given the fact that Koopman has studied musicology (although never finished it), a degree in that faculty would have been less controversial.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (April 14, 2000): 23:55
(To Johan van Veen) To which I must add the following:
He got a degree at the University of Utrecht. This University has a musicology department. This has always very much concentrated on early music (look at the work of Albert Smijers and Willem Elders and Jaap van Benthem). They ahave very good connections with performing musicians and are quite frequently consulted by performing musicians. The only other musicology department in the Netherlands is at the University of Amsterdam, where I graduated. Mr Koopman studied at this University (though probably a few years before me). BTW Frans Brueggen also studied at the same department -and never graduated-, and at least he returned to give a lecture about HIP (that he at the same time ridiculised the results of musicological research is a different story). If Mr. Koopman followed the same curriculum as I followed he only learned harmony, counterpoint, ear-training, gregorian, mensural notation, and a detailed instruction to music history, so no filological skills!

It is indeed, I agree with Johan, quite suprising he was not honored by the musicology department. IMO this make his honorary degree less valuable.

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 15, 2000): 1:15
< John Graves wrote: I don't see why you assume that Christoph Wolff endorses Koopman's reconstruction. As far as I can tell, he merely contracted with Lincoln Center to give a pre-performance lecture. He did the same thing when I saw Andras Schiff play the French Suites at Lincoln Center in February--I think Wolff is giving several pre-performance lectures on Bach works this season. >
Hence my use of the word "apparent" (see below). Appearing on the same bill will give at least some appearance of an endorsement, even if the latter doesn't necessarily and logically follow the former.

I am grateful to you and others (who have paid more attention than I) for pointing out just what Wolff has and has not said about Koopman's reconstruction.

< Jane Newble wrote: I also think that Koopman has the credentials to be taken seriously. He has given a lot of time and energy to understanding Bach and performing his music, and on account of that alone he has every right to reconstruct a lost work. 'Credentials' in the Oxford dictionary simply means: "evidence of achievement or trustworthiness", and I'm sure no-one can argue with that, whether Koopman's work is liked or not. Even if scholars disagreed with the way Koopman has done the reconstruction, that still does not alter his right to do it, as an artist. >
Certainly, Koopman has a right to do it. So do you or I or anyone else, for that matter. Were I to attempt a reconstruction-and-recomposition of Bach's Markus-Passion, observers would have every right to consider my background as musician and as musical scholar in assessing the success of my effort -- and the legitimacy of calling the result of my effort a composition by Bach.

Koopman certainly has an eminently respectable record as a performer of Bach's work -- I don't believe anyone here is suggesting otherwise. But the skills Koopman has demonstrated as a performer don't necessarily apply to the musicologial/historical detective work involved in attempting to reconstruct the Markus-Passion.


The reconstructions, reconsidered

Harry J. Steinman
wrote (April 15, 2000): 22:59
In the last several days, I've waxed rhapsodically about the Koopman Markus Passion and the McCreech Epiphany Mass. Regarding the Koopman Passion; since I don't hear the shortcomings in the reconstruction that the more studied members of the list do, I still have very good memories of the performance. Maybe someday I'll know enough about the music that I won't like it! ;-)

Ditto for the McCreech. With the passing of time (two-and-a-half days!) I find myself listening less to most of the hymns and more exclusively to the Bach. I agree that the recording doesn't sound as crisp as, say, Herreweghe, and while I understand what McCreech was trying to do, I'd have preferred a recording approach that is more clear. But I still very much enjoy the recording and find myself listening to the hymn, "Puer natus in Bethlehem" and to the Kyrie and Gloria of the F major Mass over and over and over-enough so that I don't get to the 2nd disc enough.

Well, I get excited by new music. I listened to the Mass (and considered my memory of the Passion) in light of the observations of others and I guess I still like 'em both a lot. Go figure.


St. Mark and Koopman

Marie Jensen
wrote (May 6, 2000):
Some time ago Harry asked me to write to the list, when I had been attending Koopman's St. Mark. I have now and I also bought the CD´s signed by Koopman and Mertens themselves. Normally I'm no autograph hunter, but it was funny to stand there next to the stars and tell Mertens that I admired his singing. Kind persons both of them, Mertens calm, Koopman moving his entire body and arms in dancing circles writing his signature the same way as he conducted the orchestra. And what a Schwung this signature has.

Conducting the Koopman way must be like a fitness exercise, circling ,waving his arms and fingers in very expressive ways like a dancer, getting up ,getting seated again, playing organ in both positions for more than two hours, and afterwards during the applauses running around to greet orchestra members and soloists again and again in a nearly maniac way. That man really goes for it!

But to get to the music. Koopman didn't bring his Amsterdam Barock Orchester and Choir.He used our local Radio Symphony Orchestra/Choir. But of couse a few musicians only , on modern instruments!!. The choir had about 30 members. The performance took place in a concert hall. (I like to be in a church listening to Bach, on the other hand, in the concert hall chairs are more comfortable!) Sibylla Rubens was ill. Caroline Stamm was a very fine substitute. The other soloists were Scholl, Prégardien and Mertens. The smaller roles were sung by choir members.

My impression? The great vocal Bach works - we know them so well ,and we have comparisons in our minds. So this was like listening to a piece never heard before. That fact itself makes me listen to it with other ears, than if it was an old acquiantance. So perhaps I write again when I have listened more carefully to the CD's I bought.

But of course as a parody passion , I knew lots of it in advance. Some of the choices were fine, others surprising, but I must say, that none of the selections Koopman had made worked out bad. But I'm certainly no scholar, so for reasons I don't know, musicologists might disagree.

I recognized movements from BWV 25, BWV 182, BWV 4, BWV 179, BWV 186 and BWV 68. There were also some I have heard before but could not place, and I'm glad to say some I did not know.The duet in the second part (Welt und Himmel) was wonderful. If anyone can tell me, where it comes from, I would be delighted.

The opening choir "Geh' Jesu" performed on the melody of the opening choir of BWV 25 was a real good choice. It brings the listener in the right mood, more than "Lasst Fuerstin" normally used here. When I hear it in the Brilliance version I hardly hear any sorrow at all.

Also"Mein Heiland Dir vergess ich nicht" played as the alto aria from BWV 182, sung by bass with a traverso instead of a recorder was a fine choice. There seems to be a text relation here too.

For "Falsche Welt" the BWV 179 aria is exactly as good a choice as the usual BWV 54 one.

Hearing the opening chorus of BWV 68 as ending chorus here makes sense. In fact both texts tell about how the Lord gave His Son to the world , and the melody is fine for the purpose.

Right now I can't think of any examples of Bach in the 1730's borrowing movements from his Mühlhausen period,but please correct me if there are. So the use of BWV 4 was a surprise. But in this context it worked fine. The duet in the first part "Er kommt!" was sung so great, that it became one of the highlights of the night, and the turba chorus "Kreuzige" in stead of Halleluja is of course turning things upside down, but it worked great too.

The lost recitativos are the great issue. St. Mark has many of them, and even with JSB as composer some people don't always like them. This night with Koopman recitativos I had to send my killer glance to some whispering youngsters on the row behind.

The gospel of St. Mark is the oldest of the 4 gospels. It is shorter and more simple and has its own style. It is like this old style shines through, but it is also caused by the construction with very few contemplative movements.Here is no string back up on Jesus. In the CD booklet Koopman writes about his limitations. He knows he never will be able to write like Bach. Sometimes he is quite close, other times he's far away , as when Jesus blesses the wine. But it never sounds as average baroque. There are surprises and soundpainting as well. It does not become boring.

But if we want this passion performed, choises have to be taken, attempts have to be made.It also depends on, why you listen and the answers are again many.

As a whole it was a night with some very beautiful moments especially the last part with a moving chorale and ending chorus. It was also a great pleasure to listen to the world famous singers. They fully deserve their fame. The Koopman recitativos never bored me, but they were not Bach. It was not the great flight, but his version works IMVHO well.

I like it as much as the Trauer Ode version perhaps even better but St. Mark will never be St. Matthew or St. John...

Marten Breuer wrote (May 8, 2000):
< Marie Jensen wrote: I recognized movements from BWV 25, BWV 182, BWV 4, BWV 179, BWV 186 and BWV 68. There were also some I have heard before but could not place, and I'm glad to say some I did not know.The duet in the second part (Welt und Himmel) was wonderful. If anyone can tell me, where it comes from, I would be delighted. >
In the original, it's movement 3 ('Gott, du hast es wohl gefuegt') from cantata BWV 63 ('Christen, aetzet diesen Tag').


Koopman/Bach St Mark Passion

Thierry van Bastelaer
wrote (September 18, 2000):
Has anybody listened to the above? Koopman puts together his own Cantata Top Ten by matching the text of the 1731 St Mark Passion with excerpts from various cantatas. The whole enterprise seems (and sounds) misguided to me, but would love to get opinions from others.

Charles Francis wrote (September 18, 2000):
(To Thierry van Bastelaer) I don't have this particular reconstruction, but I do have one performed by the Tallinna Barock-Orchester under Hans Gebhard. Regarding this performance, Bernd Heyder notes "Even if we can never hear Bach's Markus-Passion in its entirety, we can welcome serious attempts to make it available to the listner via an approximate reconstruction".

Johan van Veen wrote (September 19, 2000):
(To Thierry van Bastelaer) It has been discussed in alt.music.j-s-bach and rec.music.classical.recordings some time ago. You should be able to find it in the dejanews archive. I'll send you my contribution to that discussion privately.

Ramon Khalona wrote (September 19, 2000):
(To Thierry van Bastelaer) There was also an article with an interview to Koopman about this in Fanfare a few months ago.

Andy Evans wrote (September 23, 2000):
(To Thierry van Bastelaer) I heard this reconstruction in the Proms this Summer. The fact that I walked out in the interval should be some comment on it, and that wasn't anything to do with the excellent singing and playing. Endless recitatives with nothing much in them, and very little of the grab-you-by-the-throat Bach that would screw you to your chair.


Koopman's St Mark Passion "Reconstruction"

Thierry van Bastelaer (October 17, 2001):
Since I recently joined this group, I don't know whether the above has already been discussed. Any interest at taking aim at it? Should be fun.

Michael Grover wrote (October 17, 2001):
[To Thierry van Bastelaer] It was, in fact, discussed quite a bit several months ago; you could probably find the discussions in the Yahoo groups archives. But that certainly doesn't preclude another discussion from starting up!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (October 17, 2001):
[To Thierry van Bastelaer & Michael Grover] No doubt Aryeh's own "archives" (under Great Vocal Works) would be far more suitable and commodius than the Yahoo archives. http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/index.htm


Markuspassion by Bach/Koopman

David Glenn Lebut Jr. (August 16, 2003):
I read in the General Discussion on the Markuspassion on the Bach Cantatas Web stie that a movement was used by Koopman in his reconstruction of BWV 247 from BWV 168. Which movement and for what movement in the Markuspassion? Also, could anybody tell me what Koopman used as his bases for his reconstruction of movements 24 and 34 of BWV 247?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 16, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] This list is taken from www.tonkoopman.nl (curiously such an useful table was omitted in the cd booklet!)

Below is a list of the parts Ton has used in the Markus Passion:

CD-nr Type BWV
1. chorus 25/1
3. chorus 24/3
4b chorus 37/1
9 chorus 171/1
13 aria 182/5
21 aria 4 versus II
23 aria 179/3
27 chorus 135/1
28 aria 201/5
34 chorus 244/36d
38 chorus 144/1
40 aria 245/13.II
42a chorus 244/30
44 chorus 4 versus I
45 aria 207a/7
47 chorus 186/1
53 chorus 179/1
55 chorus 144/1
58b chorus 46/1
60 aria 63/3
64 chorus 68/1

David Glenn Lebut Jr. (August 17, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Thanks a lot. Would you also happen to know the works used in the Simon Heighes reconstruction by Movement order and what movement was used?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. (August 17, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] I also think that it is interesting that Koopman added an aria (namely nr. 40) in his recording in a text that NEVER was included by Picander. After all, it is the music that does not survive of the Markuspassion, NOT the text, and to add a text in the work was almost sacreligious (in my view) to Bach's and Picander's memory. Not only that, but the text was from NOT an original work, but from the 2ND VERSION of a work.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. (August 18, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Also, where did you get your information? For example, you have as track 3's original the 3rd movement of BWV 24. That same movement was used as the basis of Movement 40 in the 2nd Version of the Johannespassion. Neither of the two sound ANYTHING alike. I know because I have both recordings (that is, Koopman's reconstruction of the Markuspassion and the Johannespassion recorded by Helmuth Rilling [the 1996 recording, not the one made for the Edition Bachakademie]).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. (September 15, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] One last question on the subject: What did Koopman (and Heighes for that matter) use as their reconstruction of the Chorale movement "Wach auf, o Mensch, vom Suendenschlaff"?


Markus-Passion BWV 247: Recordings | General Discussions: Part 1 | BWV 247 – Goodman | BWV 247 – Koopman


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Ton Koopman’s Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 | Bach Sonatas for Gamba and Harpsichord | Review: Bach Orchestral Suites DVD
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Last update: ýJanuary 19, 2005 ý09:38:55