Passions and oratorios

Passions and oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach

During the 19th century the Passions were almost considered to give Bach the status of a fifth Evangelist. That semi mystical sense of awe has since given way to more rational feelings, but nevertheless there is probably no one who can be impervious to the extraordinary effect created by the two great Passions. In 1724 the St. John Passion was first performed in the Nikolaikirche; three more performances followed between 1725 and 1749.

In 1726 Bach performed a Passion attributed to Reinhard Keiser, which he had known since his time at Weimar, before he presented the first version of the St. Matthew Passion in 1727. This work supplied almost ideally the musical requirements of the Good Friday Vesper service. In 1736, by incorporating into the work the chorale-fantasy O Mensch bewein dein Sünde gross he gave the work the definitive form which we know today.


The St. Mark Passion of 1731 was undoubtedly fashioned on a far more modest scale. We can only surmise what a splendid composition we have lost here. The work obviously derived largely from the Trauerode BWV 198, from which many movements were taken. The most chorale movements have survived in the chorale collections. These facts appear to provide sufficient justification for attempting to reconstruct the lost work for performance, even though none of the numerous attempts which have been made to do so can claim to fulfil Bach's intentions or fully to match the greatness of his art.

Less problematic are Bach's other oratorios, whereby the Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 overshadows the no less accomplished Ascension Oratorio BWV 11 and Easter Oratorio BWV 249.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Ascension oratorio

Besides the Weihnachtsoratorium BVW 248, Bach composed an additional work for the feast days of the church year 1734/35: The Himmelfahrtsoratorium BWV 11 (Ascension Oratorio). Although in its...

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Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Mark Passion

Edition published in cooperation with the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, econstructed version (2001) This is a revised edition from 1964 which was edited by Diethard Hellman. It is a reconstruction of...

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Johann Sebastian Bach: Osteroratorium

Critical new edition 2004, edited by Ulrich Leisinger: Carus 31.249; old edition, edited by Dieter Hellmann: Carus 31.249/50. Parody of the secula cantata "Entfliehet, verschwindet,...

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Johann Sebastian Bach: St. John Passion

Bach's St. John Passion is among the greatest settings of the Passion in the history of music. The St. John Passion underwent several fundamental changes during Bach’s lifetime. Carus...

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J. S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio, Parts I-VI

With the edition of the Christmas Oratorio within the framework of the Stuttgart Bach Editions, Carus presents a scholarly edition for practical performance. The basis for this publication are...

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Bach: St. Matthew Passion

practical performing Urtext edition based on the latest state of Bach research edited by Bach expert Klaus Hofmann with a concise Critical Report interpretative tips on articulation...

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