J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

St. Luke Passion

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Wolfgang Helbich
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Alsfelder Vokalensemble/Barockorchester Bremen
Soloists:Mona Spaegele
Christiane Iven
Rufus Mueller
Harry van Berne
Stephan Schreckenberger
Markus Sandmann
Individual Works:Apocryphal St. Luke Passion, BWV 246
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:CPO
Catalog Number:999 293-2
Year Released/Recorded:1999
Total Playing Time:106 m.
Comments:The story of the St. Luke Passion is rather strange: When Mendelssohn saw the manuscript in the early nineteenth century (in J.S. and
C.P.E. Bach's handwriting) he did not believe it to be by J.S. Bach and when Brahms saw the work later in the century he concurred with this opinion.

However, the great Bach scholar Philipp Spitta disagreed and identified it as the genuine article, comparing the work favourably to the St. John Passion. Since that time opinion has swung back to agree with Mendelssohn - but even in the 1950's, Schmieder catalogued the work as BWV 246. Hearing the piece now, I find it almost inconceivable that it could have been identified as Bach's own. It is a delightful work and well worth hearing if you're interested in choral music of this period but my ears hear more of Praetorius than of Bach in some of the chorales. The identity of the composer is still a mystery (Klaus Haefner makes a case for .M.Molter in the accompanying booklet but acknowledges that even that theory may have difficulties) but since Bach took the trouble to copy out the work (and apparently performed it more than once), he must at least have thought it a suitable work for the Leipzig Liturgy.

The most striking thing about this work, for ears used to the great Bach passions, is the texture - there's an awful lot of recitative/chorale alternation and only a few instances of what you'd recognise as turba choruses. It's a much more "gentle" work than Bach's passions and the arias, though very pleasant, are less passion-ate.

Still, this recording under Wolfgang Helbich provides fine advocacy and if you're interested in hearing music that provides a backcloth to Bach's great works, I'd
recommend it to you.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Simon Crouch
Date First Submitted:07/04/1997