Hyperion Records

Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, H777
first performed in 1774, undergoing revision unti 1784; published by Breitkopf in 1787
author of text

'Bach (CPE): Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu' (CDH55478)
Bach (CPE): Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55478  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Part 1 No 01: Einleitung
Track 1 on CDH55478 [1'28] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Part 1 No 02. Chorus: Gott, Du wirst
Part 1 No 03. Recitative: Judäa zittert!
Part 1 No 04. Aria: Mein Geist, voll Furcht und Freuden
Part 1 No 05. Chorus: Triumph!
Part 1 No 06. Recitative: Die frommen Töchter
Part 1 No 07. Aria: Wie bang hat dich mein Lied beweint!
Part 1 No 08. Recitative: Wer ist die Sionitin?
Part 1 No 09. Duet: Vater deiner schwachen Kinder
Part 1 No 10. Recitative: Freundinnen Jesu!
Part 1 No 11. Aria: Ich folge dir
Part 1 No 12. Chorus: Tod! Wo ist dein Stachel?
Part 2 No 01: Einleitung
Track 13 on CDH55478 [0'37] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Part 2 No 02. Recitative: Dort seh' ich aus den Toren
Part 2 No 03. Aria: Willkommen, Heiland!
Part 2 No 04. Chorus: Triumph!
Part 2 No 05. Recitative: Elf auserwählte Jünger
Part 2 No 06. Aria: Mein Herr, mein Gott
Part 2 No 07. Chorus: Triumph!
Part 2 No 08. Recitative: Auf einem Hügel
Part 2 No 09. Aria: Ihr Tore Gottes
Part 2 No 10. Chorus: Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen

Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, H777
Having worked for Frederick the Second of Prussia from 1738 to 1767, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who could no longer cope with the king’s intellectually tyrannical musical tastes—typical of the enlightened despotism of the Enlightenment in which Frederick appeared as a model—decided to change posts. The death of his godfather, Telemann, opened up the way for him to become director of music in Hamburg where his style, too personal for the increasing narrow-mindedness of Berlin, would now blossom in its maturity. As well as countless works of secondary importance, often composed in haste or assembled from pieces by other composers, including his father, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach left us three great oratorios: Die Israeliten in der Wüste, Die letzten Leiden des Erlösers, and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu. The latter—to a libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler written in 1760 which had already been set to music by Telemann, Graun and others—was heard for the first time in a private performance on the Saturday before Easter in 1774. The first public performance of a revised version took place on 18 March 1778 in the ‘Auf dem Kamp’ concert hall. It seems, therefore, that the oratorio, which contains no chorale, was composed expressly for a responsive concert hall audience, and not for a place of prayer and its congregation. Bach, in collaboration with Ramler, con­tinued to modify the work right up to 1784. From 1781 to 1787 he discussed the publication of the work with Breitkopf, but finally abandoned the idea, which he considered not to be worth the investment. Finally, in 1787, following fresh negotiations, Breitkopf published the work which received three perfor­mances in February and March 1788 in Vienna (thanks to the encouragement of Baron Gottfried van Swieten), conducted by Mozart, who made several modifications to the work. A letter from the composer to his publisher reveals how proud he was of the piece which he considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces, from which younger composers could learn much.

Ramler’s libretto is not a dramatic narrative, but a lyrical description of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, high­lighting the feelings aroused by these events, without depicting actual personalities. Although the text is entirely a work of the imagination, it nevertheless contains several paraphrases from the Old and New Testaments. The work has twenty-two numbers and is divided into two parts of almost identical length. Although Bach’s musical language is as varied as possible, there are several recurring features. Each part opens with a short, dark orchestral introduction for strings; all the recitatives begin secco, with a description of a particular event, and continue, accompanied, with Christ’s own words—the only exceptions being No 3 Judäa zittert!, which is accom­panied throughout, and No 17 Elf auserwählte Jünger, which is secco from start to finish. There is one unusual chorus which appears three times to different words and is treated like a refrain; it is first heard as the fifth movement to the words ‘Triumph! Des Herrn Gesalbter sieget!’, and then returns in Nos 16 and 19, retaining each time its powerful and largely homophonic character. The arias and the single duet are charac­terized by a heightened expressivity—‘a composer cannot move unless he himself be moved’, as C P E Bach liked to say—and irregular structure that is often adapted to suit the text. It should also be men­tioned that the choruses which conclude each part are both of the ‘prelude and fugue’ type, even if the final chorus alternates with the first theme in a complex manner. True contrapuntal writing is therefore reserved for the end of each part, as an ultimate expression of divine power and majesty. The work ends with the words of Psalm 150: ‘Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Hallelujah!’.

Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu can be consi­dered to be one of the most significant oratorios composed between those of Johann Sebastian Bach and Haydn, who was himself inspired by C P E Bach’s example. The richness of the musical language and forms, the subtlety of the details and the dramatic depth of a work without a plot show us to what extent Carl Philipp Emanuel was a past master in the subtle art of organization, while seeming to write with the greatest freedom. The work is the perfect example of the aesthetic of ‘feeling’, of a modern and contrasting expressivity, less stereo­typed and also less obvious than compositions of the Baroque period. Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu left its mark on succeeding generations and justifiably aroused the admiration of, among others, both Haydn and Beethoven.

from notes by Benoît Jacquemin © 2003
English: Richard Stokes

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