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Trauer Music

Andrew Parrott reconstructs the music to mourn the death of Prince Leopold, the man who brought Bach to Cöthen.

Prince Leopold, the man who brought Bach to Cöthen in 1717.

In 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach went to Cöthen at the request of its young Prince Leopold. Though he was only there for six years, some of Bach’s finest instrumental works date from those years, including the Brandenburg Concertos, the Suites for cello and the Sonatas and Partitas for violin.

When the prince died quite suddenly in 1728, Bach was called upon to supply music for the funeral.  The texts for the service survive, but no music.  However, clever Bach scholars noticed the metrical parallels of the libretto with texts from the Trauer-Ode and the St. Matthew Passion, works that Bach had recently completed.  This was certainly not the only time that Bach reworked his own compositions. The only irrevocably lost music is that of the connecting recitatives which Bach had to newly compose.

Andrew Parrott took it upon himself to re-invent these recitatives following Bach’s own practices, so that the Taverner Choir and Taverner Players, under his direction, could perform a full reconstruction of the Music to Mourn Prince Leopold.  Their CD of this project was released in 2011 by Avie with the title Trauer-Music.  Listeners familiar with the Matthew Passion will recognize this excerpt, whose new text begins “Rest in peace, pale princely limbs.”

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Wendy Gillespie

Wendy Gillespie is Professor of Music, teaching early bowed strings and performance studies, at the Early Music Institute of the Jacobs School of Music, Bloomington, IN and President of the VdGSA. As a viola da gamba player, she has made more than 80 CDs and performed on five continents.

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