Keiser: Der blutige und sterbende Jesus

Monika Mauch, Anna Kellnhofer, Anne Bierwerth, Mirko Ludwig, Hans Jörg Mammel, Dominik Wörner, Matthias Lutze, Oliver Luhn SSATTBBB, Cantus Thuringia, Capella Thuringia, Bernhard Klapprott
128:54 (2 CDs)
cpo 555 259-2

Rather than follow tradition and immerse myself in the Bach passions this Eastertide, I opted to revisit a previous cpo release of Stölzel’s Brockes Passion, and to explore this new release from the same company – I love the way they continue to champion music from “outside the box”. In fact, this is Keiser’s own 1729 re-working of a Hunold text he had originally set in 1705. Its caused a scandal on account of the participation (in leading roles!) of three prime donne from the Hamburg opera. If not for the interspersing of chorales, the music would quite easily have been a stage work, especially the first part where there are some beautiful arias and duets with instrumental obbligati. The second part, while not without interest, does not quite match the first in musical terms, but the well-paced drama maintains the drive and interest throughout.

Klapprott has assembled a first-rate team of soloists (who also sing in the chorus, where they are joined by eight other singers who have short solo roles and two more sopranos), HIPsters with full voices, neat if rather modest ornamentation, and good blend in ensembles. The orchestra (4,4,3,1,1 strings with flutes, recorders, oboes, bassoon and continuo) is excellent. The recording is bright and clear without being too close. All in all, a different experience (of course!) from the Bach passions, but an equally valid response to the story of Easter by one of his important contemporaries – the fact that it is performed with such conviction and so beautifully is a total bonus. Don’t miss it!

Brian Clark