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13 Johann Sebastian Bach and Barthold Heinrich Brockes Daniel R. Melamed J ohann Sebastian Bach never joined the likes of Reinhard Keiser, Georg Philipp Telemann, Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Mattheson, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel , and Johann Friedrich Fasch in setting the most influential passion text of the early eighteenth century, “Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus” by Barthold Heinrich Brockes. Nonetheless, Brockes was arguably the most important textual influence on Bach’s composition and performance of passion music. Bach had the opportunity of learning Brockes’s text and several musical settings of it; he used movements drawn from one of those settings in a Leipzig passion performance ; his St. Matthew Passion was influenced by it, perhaps even more than has been recognized; and his St. John Passion can be regarded as a Brockes setting adapted to the needs of a gospel oratorio. The Brockes text and its early settings were widely circulated, and in Leipzig Bach had ample opportunity to encounter them. The original text printed in connection with the private Hamburg premiere in 1712 probably had only limited distribution.1 But the revised version dating from 1713, with some additional texts, was published in 1715 as a supplement to Brockes’s German translation of Giambattista Marino’s Slaughter of the Innocents. That volume was frequently reprinted in the first half of the eighteenth century and appears to have been in wide circulation.2 Three of the four earliest musical settings of the Brockes Passion may also have been available to Bach. Keiser’s complete setting was known in the region around Leipzig, I had generous assistance in the research for this essay from Joshua Rifkin, Michael Marissen, Robin Leaver, Stephen Crist, Steven Zohn, and Ellen Exner. 1. See the chronology of the Brockes Passion and related works in the Appendix. 2. Herrn Barthold Henrich Brockes . . . verteutschter Bethlehemitischer Kinder-Mord des Ritters Marino. Nebst etlichen von des herrn übersetzers eigenen Gedichten, mit Dessen Genehmhaltung ans licht Gestellet, Sammt einer Vorrede, Leben des Marino, und einigen Anmerckungen von König (Cologne and Hamburg: B. Schillers Wittwe, 1715), a translation of Marino’s “La strage degli innocenti.” There is evidence of editions from 1715, 1725, 1727, 1734, 1739, 1740, 1742, and 1753. 14 melamed having been performed in Sondershausen around 1727 under the direction of Johann Balthasar Christian Freislich. Freislich also composed his own version of the text, probably between 1721 and 1726.3 Excerpts of Keiser’s setting reduced for voice and continuo were published by the composer himself in 1714 under the title Auserlesene Soliloquia aus dem . . . Oratorio gennant Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus; this print was available at the Leipzig book fair in the year of its publication. There is no overlap between the pieces in this collection and those used or adapted by Bach and his librettist in his St. John Passion, and this may not be a coincidence; they may have systematically avoided the texts in the Auserlesene Soliloquia as familiar and overused.4 The Erfurt musician Johann Martin Klöppel performed Keiser’s setting in that city’s Barfüßerkirche in the first half of the 1730s.5 Georg Philipp Telemann’s Brockes setting can be traced more directly to Leipzig. In a letter published in Johann Mattheson’s Grosse General-Baß-Schule, Telemann refers to performances of his composition that must have taken place before September 14, 1718, the date of the letter, including one in Leipzig. The circumstances are unknown, though the Neukirche in 1717 or 1718 has been proposed as the venue.6 There was also once a copy of Telemann’s score in the library of the Thomasschule, to which 3. Irmgard Scheitler, Deutschsprachige Oratorienlibretti. Von den Anfängen bis 1730, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kirchenmusik 12 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2005), 212n165, 344n229. Karla Neschke, Johann Balthasar Christian Freislich (1687–1764). Leben, Schaffen und Werküberlieferung. Mit einem thematisch-systematischen Verzeichnis seiner Werke, Schriftenreihe zur Mitteldeutschen Musikgeschichte 3 (Oschersleben: Ziehten, 2000), 50ff. 4. See Albert Göhler, Verzeichnis der in den Frankfurter und Leipziger Messkatalogen der Jahre 1564 bis 1759 angezeigten Musikalien (Leipzig: C. F. Kahnt, 1902), section 3, p. 9. The pieces in the Auserlesene Soliloquia were well known and were used in the assembling or pastiching of passion settings, for example, in a version of a Hamburg St. Mark Passion transmitted in a score now in Göttingen. See Daniel R. Melamed and Reginald...


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