J S Bach - Kothener Trauermusik BWV244a
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMC902211
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 29th September 2014
WorksKothener Trauermusik, BWV244a 'Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt'
When Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen died in 1728, his former Kapellmeister had not forgotten the five brilliant years he had spent in the prince’s service. He dedicated to his memory a mourning cantata almost entirely based on the music of two major works of the mid-1720s, the Trauer-Ode and the St Matthew Passion.
Although the score is lost, the wordbook and other sources of information have now made it possible to reconstruct the work.
In his first recording for harmonia mundi, Raphaël Pichon invites us on an exciting musical treasure hunt.
1Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt (chorus)
2O Land! Besturztes Land! (recitative)
3Weh und Ach (aria)
4Zage nur, du treues Land (aria)
5Komm wieder, teurer Fursten-Geist (chorus)
6Wir haben einen Gott, der da Hilft (chorus)
7Erhalte mich (aria)
8Mit Freuden sei die Welt verlassen (aria)
9Repetatur Dictum (chorus)
10Lass, Leopold, dich nicht begraben (aria)
11Wird auch gleich nach tausend Zahren (aria)
12Geh, Leopold, zu deiner Ruhe (aria a 2 cori)
13Bleibet nur in eurer Ruh (aria)
14Hemme dein gequaltes Kranken (aria)
15Die Augen sehn nach deiner Leiche (chorus)
Bach was Kapellmeister at the Cöthen court from 1717 to 1723 before moving to Leipzig, and he later described those years as the happiest of his career. During that time he formed a close bond with Prince Leopold, himself a skilled musician. When Leopold died at the early age of thirty-four in November 1728, it was Bach – still the titular Kapellmeister at Cöthen – who was charged with providing the main music for the funeral the following March. The text for the four-part mourning cantata was written by Christian Friedrich Henrici (alias 'Picander'), who had recently prepared the libretto for the St Matthew Passion. Bach's music is lost, but it's long been recognised that he reused the music from ten of the numbers in the recently-composed St Matthew Passion (the verse rhythms correspond closely), as well as the framing choruses from the Trauer-Ode, BWV 198, composed for the funeral of the Electress of Saxony in October 1727.
This use of 'parody' technique – reusing existing music to new texts – was commonplace in the Baroque era, and served as the basis for several of Bach's most famous works, including the Mass in B minor and the Christmas Oratorio. Where this latest recording really sheds new light is in its comprehensive adoption of the theory that the recitatives of the Trauermusik were also taken from the free-composed accompanied recitatives in the St Matthew Passion. Furthermore, the text of the biblical chorus that frames Part 2 of the Cöthen Trauermusik may have been set to the music that eventually found a home in the second Kyrie of the Mass in B minor. The results here are both convincing and compelling.
Using a chamber choir of four to five voices per part (rather than the solo voices used by Parrott on Avie), and an orchestra with eight violins, the musicians of Pygmalion emphasise the work's opulent scoring without ever sacrificing transparency. The brisk tempi in the choral outer movements of part 1 (the opening and closing choruses from BWV 198) have a celebratory feel without sacrificing the music's rich textures. While it's occasionally unsettling to hear well-known music not just with different texts but in a different sequence (such as the bass aria Mache dich from the St Matthew Passion followed by the recitative that normally precedes it), the performances are so persuasively musical as to silence any fleeting misgivings. The final chorus, set to the same music as the end of the St Matthew Passion, is as utterly grief-laden as in its more familiar guise.
This is a marvellous addition to the Bach discography, and another feather in Pygmalion's cap. The vocal solos from Sabine Devieilhe, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs and Christian Immler are uniformly excellent, as are the choral singing and the instrumental support (the continuo group, including organ, harpsichord, theorbo and archlute, is especially impressive). The recording, made in the Chapel Royal at Versailles, is as warmly textured and finely focused as the performances themselves. With full texts, detailed notes, and a helpful table charting the origins of each movement, this is a really splendid label debut.
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