OP0427. BROCKES PASSION (Handel), recorded 1985, w.McGegan Cond. Capella Savaria Ensemble; Istvan Gati, Katalin Farkas, Martin Klietmann, Eva Bartfai-Barta, Eva Lax, Drew Minter, Peter Najan, Tamas Csanyi, etc. 3-Hungaroton 12734/36, w.Elaborate 79pp. Libretto-brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 5991811273422
“Handel's BROCKES PASSION has had rather a bad press, suffering rather in comparison with Bach's passions. In fact, Handel's BROCKES PASSION was written at about the same time as ESTHER, some eight years before Bach wrote the ST. JOHN PASSION. The text had first been set by Keiser in 1712 and was set by Telemann in 1716. During Holy Week, in 1719, Johann Mattheson (who was also a friend of Handel's) arranged performances of four settings of the libretto by Keiser, Telemann, Handel and himself. Bach used elements of Brockes libretto when he came to write the ST. JOHN PASSION and he knew Handel's setting, one of the earliest manuscripts of Handel's work is in J.S. Bach's hand. Handel's own autograph of the work is lacking.
In style it lies somewhere between the liturgical passions of Bach and Telemann and the Italian oratorio. The tenor Evangelist narrates, the chorus takes on the role of the Christian faithful and the Jewish mob, there are arias commenting on the action, but the characters in the narrative also have arias - Jesus sings a duet with his mother. The Evangelist's narrations, though, are not taken directly from the gospels but are a rhymed text which is a free paraphrase of all four Gospels. Much of the commentary is given to the Daughter of Zion, emphasising the sufferings of Christ as proof of his devotion to mankind.
The keen eared may spot occasional pre-echoes of English oratorio even if this work has not the structural sophistication that Handel developed in this genre. Though leaving Germany when fairly young, he was sufficiently trained in and attuned to the Lutheran organ loft to understand what the congregation expected of a passion - a contemplative, meditative drama. Though the arias might vary stylistically in a way that does not happen in Bach, they are all firmly rooted in the psychology of the drama and this is helped by the popular libretto by Brockes.
Jesus, sung by baritone, Istvan Gati, makes his first appearance on the Mount of Olives, in a recitative followed by a sequence of three arias. The moving 'Mein Vater, mein Vater' recurs, after a short recitative, as 'Ist's möglich', only the words changing, the music is identical. In 'Erwachet doch', Jesus' warning to the sleeping disciples is interrupted by their confused questions, making a striking arioso. In scenes like this, Handel's dramatic training is rarely far away and it become more understandable why the work has been presented dramatically on the stage. After Judas' betrayal of Christ, Peter (sung by one of the tenor soloists) curses him in a wonderfully dramatic aria…in his following two arias, both sung very movingly, especially the aria 'Heul, du Fluch!' with its lovely oboe obbligato.
Evangelist, Martin Klietmann, has an attractive, expressive voice and this can be most moving in his recitatives; unfortunately Handel gives him no arias. Instead, the Daughter of Zion, sung brilliantly by Maria Zadori, gets the lion’s share of the arias. She is one of the principal conduits of Brockes comment and meditation on the action as she constantly interrupts with arias. In a long work, she gets sixteen arias and ariosos in all, as well as a moving duet with Jesus.”
- Robert Hugill, MusicWebInternational