Bach's Trauer-Music given a new edge

Andrew Parrott reconstructs Bach's Trauer-Music with love, care and flair.

Composer: Bach
Repertoire: Trauer-Music Artist: Emily Van Evera, Clare Wilkinson, Charles Daniels, Tom Meglioranza, Taverner Consort and Players/Andrew Parrott
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Vocal

Label: Virgin Classics 0709212

The Music: If this first full reconstruction of Bach’s music for the funeral of Prince Leopold of Cothen sounds familar, it’s because much of it is. Only the libretto survives, but its metrical patterns suggest Bach lifted the music almost entirely from his Trauer-Ode for the Electress of Saxony (BWV198) and St Matthew Passion. It’s been pieced together accordingly. 

The Performance: Given the familiarity, albeit somewhat displaced, of the music, it’s the secular libretto that should garner the most interest. Diction, therefore, is the key to success, and these soloists thoroughly deliver, maximising the curious experience of listening to some of Bach’s most powerful heaven-centred music transplanted into a eulogy for departed earthly royalty. The reconstruction’s other scholarly USP is the fact that, as none of the recitatives matched existing music, Parrott had to compose them all from scratch. The result is clearly the work of a Bach genius, the new vocal lines and rich instrumental scorings fitting seamlessly into the whole. 

The Verdict: Evidently it’s wonderful, famous music, and it’s an emotive, crisply beautiful performance. However, the weirdness of its supporting texts such as ‘Your passing cuts us to the quick, sweet Leopold’ makes this essentially one for performance practice aficionados. 

Want More? Bach wrote his Solo Cantatas BWV35, 169 and 170 in the same period. Bernarda Fink sings them with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Petra Müllejans (Harmonia Mundi, HMC 902016).