Another year of the Holy Week Series, already the fourth since my life turned upside down. Four years of not being a musician anymore. How time flies. And while, on a daily basis, I’m already quite comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be a flutist anymore, this is that special time of the year when I really feel pity for myself and can’t stop having those “what if” and “could have been” thoughts. It’s all pointless, of course, because depression isn’t a matter of choice. And while I haven’t touched my instruments in four years, I still have a lot to say about how 18th century music is the best, so let’s talk passion music (instead of mental health woes, haha). Because, according to Baroque Palm Sunday traditions, that’s what one is supposed to listen to on this day.
Of course, no Lent can pass without me mentioning the Brockes Passion, so Brockes Passion it is, the very first version ever, written by the Hamburg composer Reinhard Keiser who, if we believe Johann Mattheson, was “the greatest opera composer of the world”. He was also a lover of good vines (especially Tokay), which, at times, made him behave “more like a cavalier than a musician” (again, if we believe Mattheson, which I personally have no reason not to do.)
Keiser was the first composer to set Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ (a prominent Hamburg politician) libretto Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus aus den vier Evangelisten… in gebundener Rede vorgestellt to music in 1712. It was performed in the same year at one of the weekly concerts organised by Brockes at his home to a neat little audience of “over 500 persons” (apparently, Brockes had rather comfortable living conditions, haha). The première was a big success and the libretto became very popular among other German-speaking composers over the next few years. Händel, Telemann, Fasch and even Johann Sebastian Bach wrote their own versions. Here are my takes on some of them from the previous years: Johann Friedrich Fasch, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, Georg Philipp Telemann, and some more Telemann (of course it can always be some more Telemann).