The Passions of C.P.E. Bach

The Passions Of C.P.E. Bach

The Passions of C.P.E. Bach

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As Kapellmeister at Hamburg from 1768 to 1788, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach composed 21 settings of the Passion narrative.


The tradition of the German oratorio Passion began in Hamburg in 1643 with Thomas Selle’s St John Passion and continued unbroken until the death of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in 1788. The oratorio Passion, made famous by Johann Sebastian Bach in his St John Passion and St Matthew Passion, is the style that is most familiar to the modern listener. It makes use of recitative to tell the Passion narrative and initially intersperses reflective chorales but later arias and choruses as well. This is in contrast to the Passion oratorio, a genre typified by the so-called Brockes-Passion text: Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (set by Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel, among others). The Passion oratorio does away with the vocal characterization used in the oratorio Passion and is more a free, poetic retelling of the narrative, rather than a direct quote from the Gospels. Bach himself made this distinction when he wrote to Georg Michael Telemann in 1767 to clarify his duties in Hamburg: "are presented in the historic and old manner with the evangelist and other persons, or is it arranged in the manner of an oratorio with reflections, as is the case in Ramler's oratorio ?""ist solche nach historischer und alter Art mit den Evangelisten und anderen Personen vorgestellt oder wird sie nach...
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