Monday, March 28, 2011

Georg Gebel - Johannes Passion - Remy, Weimarer Barock Ensemble







This is emphatically not run-of-the-mill, dreary or clockwork Baroque. It is heartfelt music of the highest order, music which has been inexplicably forgotten. A younger contemporary of Bach's, working to the east in Silesia, Gebel lived and composed in the same musical and cultural world. The compositional Baroque in Europe clearly stretched from Portugal and Ireland at least as far as Silesia, if we take Teixeira, Handel and now Gebel as boundary markers.

Ludger Remy Because the Passion text is so familiar, the listener is continually comparing the setting to others, notably to the Bach St John. This work is in the same class as JSB's. Gebel uses similar resources and works in a style that could be mistaken for Bach's. If occasionally the artistic choices of the composer seem starker than Bach's, such as in the dramatic proclamation "Jesus von Nazareth, der Jüden König", it points up how open baroque music was to the distinctive and personal imprint of a compositional master. The mood of the work is generally like Bach's, drawing on the same tradition of chorale settings and reflective or commenting arias.

In this recording, the musicianship is of the highest order from chorus, instrumentalists and soloists. Everyone interested in music of this period would do well to hear it. To ensure that Gebel does not subside again into obscurity, record companies and conductors should issue other recordings of the work and help give life to a rediscovered master. It also deserves concert performances. The great pity is that it appears that the vast bulk of Gebel's work has been lost over the centuries. 


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