Chloe Chua

Chloe Chua
Chloe Chua (b. 2007, Singapore), Junior First Prize (with 10-year-old Christian Li from Australia) at the 2018 Menuhin Competition in Geneva. Photo by Carolina Negel

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Johann Sebastian Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 – Hannah Morrison, Meg Bragle, Nicholas Mulroy, Peter Harvey, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (HD 1080p)

The fact that Bach's Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, has not found the same high level of acceptance and appreciation that his other major vocal works have, works like the B minor Mass, his St Matthew and St John Passions and the Christmas Oratorio, may be due to a number of reasons which will be investigated through the presentation and interpretation of all the critical sources beginning with Bach's performance materials, including 19th and 20th century commentaries and concluding with some recent analyses by Bach experts. By examining the chronological development of the musical materials, most of which (excepting the recitatives) were composed at earlier times for quite different circumstances and not specifically for performances on Easter Sunday, it will be possible to begin to understand why Bach's Easter Oratorio has failed to live up to the high standards that audiences have come to expect from a Bach vocal-instrumental composition celebrating one of the major feast days in the liturgical year.

A number of important Bach biographers and commentators have found it difficult to avoid criticizing this work for inadequacies which mainly stem from the process of parody (reusing music composed for another occasion (here secular as a pastoral cantata) and quickly adapting it with an entirely new text (within five weeks) for use on one of the most important sacred holidays, Easter Sunday. Philipp Spitta (1841-1894), the great 19th-century Bach biographer, for instance, knowing nothing about its secular predecessor, expressed his displeasure with Bach's choice of the libretto of the Easter Oratorio this way: "It cannot but surprise us to find that Bach could have been satisfied with such a text. He has embodied the history of the Passion in a stupendous work, and he knew that the Resurrection had been sung at an earlier period, for he knew and made use of Vopelius' hymn book. It might be supposed that this would have been reason enough for his treating the history of the Resurrection in a worthier and more dignified way. Nor is this a work of his youth; the forms show the handling of a mature master, and from the manuscript we may see that the work must have been written about 1736". Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), considering the practical aspect of performance, even went as far as to suggest: "The text should be altered somewhat". Friedrich Smend (1893-1980), who discovered the original secular cantata BWV 249a with a text by Picander, praised the important, successful Bach parodies based on original secular works like the Mass in B minor and the Christmas Oratorio, but singled out the Easter Oratorio as work which was not as successfully adapted: "If you consider the parodied sections of the Missa (Kyrie and Gloria) and the Symbolum Nicenum from the B minor Mass, you will in each instance come to the conclusion that Bach could not have chosen a more suitable model whether in form or function, a model, which in its transformation from the original form not only attained the value of the former in its new form, but even surpassed the original artistically. The exceptions to this rule are few among Bach's sacred parodies based upon earlier secular sources. The Easter Oratorio could be one of these exceptions".

Source: Thomas Braatz, 2010 (

Μόνο τρία έργα του Γιόχαν Σεμπάστιαν Μπαχ φέρουν τον τίτλο «Ορατόριο»: των Χριστουγέννων, της Αναλήψεως και του Πάσχα. Αν και τα δύο πρώτα έχουν υποδειγματικά θρησκευτικό χαρακτήρα, το Πασχαλινό Ορατόριο, που βασίζεται σε μια προηγούμενη κοσμική καντάτα του συνθέτη, δεν χρησιμοποιεί βιβλικό κείμενο, δεν περιλαμβάνει χορικά ούτε έχει αφηγητή. Αποτελεί έτσι ένα χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα της συγχώνευσης θρησκευτικής και κοσμικής μουσικής, που παρατηρείται σε πολλά από τα έργα του Μπαχ.

Στην πρώτη του μορφή, ως καντάτα, το έργο παρουσιάστηκε την 1η Απριλίου 1725, Κυριακή του Πάσχα, στη Λειψία. Έκτοτε, το έργο αναθεωρήθηκε δύο φορές: το 1735, όπου πλέον ονομάστηκε «ορατόριο», και το 1740.

Σολίστες, χορωδία και ορχήστρα, υπό τη διεύθυνση του Τζον Έλιοτ Γκάρντινερ, προβάλλουν τον κοσμικό χαρακτήρα του «Ορατορίου», δίνοντας ένα ζωηρό τόνο στη λαμπρή μουσική του Μπαχ.

Πηγή: Κώστας Τηλιακός

With English subtitles

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 (1725, 1735, 1740)

i. Sinfonia 
ii. Adagio 
iii. (Aria) Kommt, eilet und laufet
iv. (Recitativo) O kalter Männer Sinn
v. (Aria) Seele, deine Spezereien
vi. (Recitativo) Hier ist die Gruft
vii. (Aria) Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer
viii. (Recitativo) Indessen seufzen wir
ix. (Aria) Saget, saget mir geschwinde
x. (Recitativo) Wir sind erfreut
xi. (Chorus) Preis und Dank

Hannah Morrison, soprano
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass

Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists

Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner

London, Proms 2013

(HD 1080p)

Uploaded on Youtube for the Blog "Faces of Classical Music"

First publication: April 19, 2014 – Last update: April 14, 2017

Hannah Morrison

Meg Bragle

Nicholas Mulroy

Peter Harvey

More photos

See also

Johann Sebastian Bach: Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11 – Hannah Morrison, Meg Bragle, Nicholas Mulroy, Peter Harvey, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (HD 1080p)

Eroica (The Movie, BBC 2003) by Simon Cellan Jones – Ian Hart, Leo Bill, Claire Skinner, Frank Finlay – John Eliot Gardiner (HD 1080p)

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