When Telemann’s Brockes-Passion was first performed in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1716 it caused quite a stir. Critics praised it to the skies and Telemann himself later noted that his Passion ‘caused choir stalls and chancels in many German towns to be filled with sound’.
What is it about Barthold Heinrich Brockes’s text that not only inspired Telemann but also sufficiently intrigued Bach to copy it out in full and to use portions of it in his own St John Passion? And why did it attract so many composers within a short space of time, among them Keiser (1712), Handel (1716) and Stölzel (1725)?The answers are perhaps to be found in its dramatic possibilities and, more generally, in changing attitudes of the time towards religion and formal worship. Brockes was a Hamburg contemporary of Bach and Telemann. His text is not of the liturgical kind familiar to us through Bach’s surviving Passions but rather one which reflects the newer values of the German Enlightenment, replacing Biblical narrative with poetic paraphrase.The highly charged emotional language and often startlingly vivid imagery of Brockes’s text evidently fired Telemann’s imagination, enabling him to create a piece whose sustained musical interest with passages of considerable dramatic impact is likely to have wide appeal.
Telemann immediately draws us into the Passion with a poignant C minor Sinfonia, characterized by dissonant harmony and contrasting virtuoso oboe writing. The arias are varied in form and character and there are several scenes to which Telemann brings a fervent vibrancy. Among the most deeply felt are those of Peter’s denial and the extended scene of Christ’s Passion containing a sequence of expressive arias for the Daughter of Zion, who plays an important role in the drama, and a Faithful Soul.
This is the most operatic German passion oratorio, and my favorite Brockes Passion of those I've heard (Handel, Mattheson, Stölzel, Keiser).
McGegegan's is the only real complete recording, unlike Rene Jacobs's effort who omitted 4 parts...