Schering Stiftung


Music from the Classical Period from the Archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: St. John's Passion of 1772

Music from the Classical Period from the Archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: St. John's Passion of 1772


September 24, 2003, 8–10 p.m.

Since the 17th century, a Passion according to one of the Evangelists has been performed in Hamburg every year. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who in 1768 succeeded Georg Philipp Telemann as musical director of the city, fit well within this tradition. In 1772, he set to music the account of the fourth Evangelist.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born in 1714 in Weimar. A student of his father Johann Sebastian, he was appointed chamber harpsichordist at the court of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia in Ruppin in 1738. In 1740 he followed the King, after his accession to the throne, to Berlin and Potsdam. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach died in Hamburg in 1788, where he had been musical director since 1768. He is regarded as one of the most important representatives of the so-called “Prussian Classic.”

The score of his St. John’s Passion of 1772 was long thought to be lost. In 1999, it was rediscovered, together with more than 5,000 other manuscripts, in a library in Kiev. The collection is the archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, which ended up as war booty in the Soviet Union in 1945. The archive includes invaluable handwritten works by the two eldest sons of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel.

The archive also contains significant holdings of the music of the Prussian Court Orchestra and the Court Opera of Frederick the Great, including compositions by Graun, Quantz, Schaffrath and Agricola, as well as a number of sacred works by Georg Philipp Telemann. After their discovery, the documents were returned to the Berlin Sing-Akademie. The Berlin Sing-Akademie was founded in 1791 by Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736–1800). It is the oldest bourgeois musical society in Germany. Among its members and friends were such prominent figures as Bettina von Arnim, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Otto von Bismarck.

With support from the Schering Stiftung, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s St. John’s Passion of 1772 could be performed for the first time since its première. On September 24, 2003, the Zelter Ensemble of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, accompanied by the Baroque Orchestra Capriccio Basel, under the direction of Prof. Joshard Daus, brought this work back to life in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, where it was received to great acclaim.

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