Bach: Trauer Music

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WORKS: Trauer-Music for Prince Leopold
PERFORMER: Emily Van Evera (soprano), Clare Wilkinson (mezzo-soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), Tom Meglioranza (baritone); Taverner Consort and Players/Andrew Parrott

Bach’s Trauer-Music has until now been presumed lost – but don’t hold your breath: this is not new music but ‘reconstructed’. Bach recycled ten arias from the St Matthew Passion written for Leipzig, and also took choruses from the Trauer-Ode for the Electress of Saxony. Both date from 1727, so they would be unknown in Cöthen and ripe for borrowing when Bach wrote his Trauer-Music for the 1728 burial and memorial services of his previous employer, Prince Leopold.
Picander’s libretto still exists, and evidence for the so-called ‘parody’ (reworking, without disparaging implications) lies in his metrical design. The aria texts match metrical patterns of arias in the Passion. One of the choruses proved more problematical until Parrott identified comparable similarities with one from the Trauer‑Ode. There remained ten recitatives which Parrott has composed convincingly – Bach would surely have approved.
The Taverner Consort and Players have been performing together for nearly 40 years – some go back nearly three decades. High points include Susanne Heinrich’s gamba solo during ‘Komm susses Kreuz’ in the Passion, and the way in which Wilkinson phrases ‘Weh und Ach’ (BWV 244/6) with exceptional sensitivity and direction. Well‑balanced recording allows the one‑to-a-part chorus voices to be heard clearly against the accompanying instruments.
Though this Trauer-Music is based on conjecture, and some of its  music is newly-composed pastiche, it convincingly fills a yawning gap in Bach’s mature output, and it’s beautifully performed. George Pratt