on 16 December 2013
We have lost all the music for Bach's Markus Passion, but the libretto has come down to us intact. On the basis of this, and because Bach regularly recycled his own material, it is possible to "reconstruct" the missing music of the arias, choruses and chorales though not of course the recitative that tells the story. Other reconstructions have been recorded before; for example Peter Schrier recorded a version by Diethard Hellmann and the choir of the Cambridge college I attended has produced a version by Andor Gomme. This version later edition replaces the lost recitatives by a contemporary Markus Passion by Reinhard Reinhard, better-known for his operas. Another recorded version uses a spoken narrative to link the pieces of music. To me a better solution that Gomme's marriage of Bach and Keiser because they do not quite match each other.
So how does the Dutch musiclogist and conductor Ton Koopman solve the problem? The answer is, I do not know. I suspect that he has composed the recitatives in pseudo-Bach style. There is NO information on the reconstruction provided by Warner Classics who have re-issued a pair of cds that originally appeared on the Erato Label. I admit that £6.35 is cheap for two cds, but I, for one, would rather pay a bit more and learn how the reconstruction was put together. Of course one can catch the borrowings from cantatas, but one would also like to know why these particular pieces were selected.
What makes it the more frustrating is that the performance is exemplary. Soloists, chorus and orchestra are superb and the gentle melancholy character of this Passion comes over beautifully. It warrants 5 stars. The presentation warrants 1, hence the average of 3 that I have given it.