KEISER St Mark Passion
It is often claimed that Bach performed Reinhard Keiser’s St Mark Passion on Good Friday on at least three occasions between 1713 and the 1740s. There was a patchy recording of this many moons ago (Christophorus, 3/95), but during the intervening decades scholarship has moved on. The rediscovered original printed libretto makes it very clear that it was composed for Holy Week 1707 by Hamburg Cathedral’s director of music Friedrich Nicolaus Bruhns (1637-1718). This state of affairs is botched in Mirare’s otherwise neatly organised documentation. Keiser deserves his gradual rehabilitation but his name shouldn’t be on the cover. Bruhns’s authorship need not diminish the usefulness of this reappraisal of a work that Bach knew and seems to have liked.
Joël Suhubiette conducts a fully rounded and sonorous performance. Jan Kobow is an ideally solemn Evangelist, and Christ’s recitatives are sung compassionately by Thomas E Bauer (his questioning ‘Eli, Eli, lama asabthani?’ is movingly done). The instrumentalists of Gli Incogniti are renowned for their spiced interpretations, so it’s no surprise they play without a whiff of formulaic safety, but nonetheless the bold colours remain firmly in the service of the mood of the text. Amandine Beyer’s violin obbligato weeps softly in conversation with Stephan Van Dyck in the lament ‘Wein, ach, wein jetzt um die Wette’; the partnership of Anne Magouët and oboist Antoine Torunczyk has compelling sincerity in ‘O Golgatha! Platz herber Schmerzen’. The dozen singers of Ensemble Jacques Moderne produce a fulsomely textured choral sound, and perhaps the doleful suspense generated by the final chorus ‘O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid!’ is the most revealing clue to what Bach gleaned from this score.