|Review by Jan Hanford:|
The manuscript for Bach's St. Mark Passion has not survived. The text is contained in the third volume of the complete edition of the works of poet Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici), although it does not specify a composer. Since the text for many of Bach's cantatas are by Picander it is assumed that this text was also meant for a composition of Bach's. The cd booklet goes into excellent detail of the history of the work by world-renowned Bach historian and musicologist Christoph Wolff.
As it tells us in the cd booklet, the usual choice for the St. Mark Passion is to use the "Funeral Ode" from Cantata BWV 198. But for this recording Ton Koopman has not used the "Funeral Ode" and, instead, has done his own reconstruction, writing the recitatives himself and taking selections from existing works of Bach to match the text (as he feels Bach originally intended). The result is a testament to the excellent scholarship and musicianship of Koopman. However, I would have liked to know which movements of which Cantatas Ton Koopman used and the lack of documentation in the liner notes is disappointing.
The overall work is lovely, I particularly enjoyed the boy sopranos which are a nice change. I am not a fan of recitatives, so I prefer to skip over those. The chorales and choruses are all beautiful and some listeners will find many of them familiar. This is not all that unusual, since Bach often re-used his own music. The performance is detailed, subtle and emotionally fulfilling. However, is this really Bach's St. Mark's Passion? Well yes and no. Since the Bach catalog contains BWV 247 (but no score) this is certainly a worthy and beautiful reconstruction to fill the previously empty space. But it is more a work of scholarship than a genuine work of Bach's.
Do I recommend this cd? To new Bach listeners, no. Start with the St. Matthew Passion and the Mass in B Minor, they are extraordinary. This cd is for Bach completists, the curious, and for fans of Ton Koopman.