St Mark Passion (Bach)

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St Mark Passion
BWV 247
Passion by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Related based on BWV 198, BWV 54
Occasion Good Friday
Performed 23 March 1731 (1731-03-23) – Leipzig
Cantata text Picander
Comment Music lost

The St Mark Passion (German: Markus-Passion), BWV 247, is a lost Passion setting by Johann Sebastian Bach, first performed in Leipzig on Good Friday, 23 March 1731 and again on Good Friday 1744 in a revised version. Though Bach's music is lost, the libretto by Picander is still extant, and from this, the work can to some degree be reconstructed.


Unlike Bach's earlier existing passions (St John Passion and St Matthew Passion), the Markus-Passion is probably a parody—it recycles movements from other pre-existing works. The St Mark Passion seems to reuse virtually the whole of the Trauer Ode Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl, BWV 198, along with the two arias from Widerstehe doch der Sünde, BWV 54. In addition, two choruses from the St Mark Passion were reused in the Christmas Oratorio. This leaves only a couple of arias missing, which are taken from other Bach works when reconstructions are attempted. However, since Bach's recitative is lost, most reconstructions use the recitatives composed for a Markus-Passion attributed to Reinhard Keiser, a work which Bach himself performed on at least two occasions, which gives a certain authenticity to things, although it could be viewed as somewhat disrespectful to Keiser's work. However, Keiser's setting starts slightly later than Bach's, which requires a small amount of composition on the part of the reconstructor.

Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Mark Passion was first performed in Leipzig on Good Friday, 23 March 1731. Written under the pseudonym Picander, Christian Friedrich Henrici's libretto survives in a 1732 poetry collection. The Markus-Passion is a modest setting, adding to Mark chapters 14 and 15 only eight free verse arias and 16 hymn stanzas. The chorales assume greater weight owing to their higher proportional use: 16 of the 46 movements are chorales in the St Mark Passion, whereas only 13 of 68 numbers are chorales in the St Matthew Passion. Five of the Markus-Passion texts appear to match the 1727 Trauer Ode, other likely parodies include BWV 54 and BWV 120a. However, no musical material remains for the Gospel texts or turba choruses. Further, we have no knowledge of the keys and orchestration which Bach used. While the libretto specifies which chorale melodies were used, Bach's harmonizations remain uncertain.


Several reconstructions exist.

Diethard Hellmann completed a reconstruction in 1964 based on parodies and chorale harmonization choices only. A 1976 edition includes additional choruses to be used with a spoken delivery of the gospel text. Carus-Verlag published Hellmann's work with newly composed recitatives and arias by Johannes Koch in 1999. The orchestration for the work matches that of BWV 198.

Simon Heighes's reconstruction is completed in 1995. This is recorded by Jörg Breiding for Rondeau.

Andor Gomme edited a 1997 reconstruction published by Bärenreiter that utilizes BWV 198 and choruses from BWV 204, 216, 120a, and 54. The recitatives and turba choruses are drawn from a St Mark Passion traditionally attributed to Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739), which Bach himself adapted for use in Weimar in 1713.

In 1998 Rudolf Kelber reconstructed the St Mark Passion as a pasticcio: he completed Bach's fragments using arias from cantatas by Bach, recitatives by Keiser, motives by Telemann and his own additions.

In 1999, Ton Koopman presented a reconstruction that does not utilize BWV 198, but instead draws on Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe, BWV 25 (opening chorus) and Siehe zu, daß deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei, BWV 179 (turba choruses) and his own freely composed recitatives.

In 2010, harpsichordist and conductor Jörn Boysen made a new version utilizing choruses and arias from BWV 198 and an aria from BWV 54. He composed all missing recitatives, turba choirs and one aria. This version has been performed in the Netherlands and Germany in 2011 and 2012.[1]

In the same year, Alexander Ferdinand Grychtolik made a first edition of the late version of the St Mark Passion (from 1744) as a stylistically consistent reconstruction, published by Edition Peters. The text of this unknown later version was discovered in 2009 in Saint Petersburg. In this version, Bach added two arias and he made small changes in Picander's text.[2]


A recording of Dr Simon Heighes's reconstruction was made by the European Union Baroque Orchestra with the Ring Ensemble of Finland conducted by Roy Goodman. Rogers Covey-Crump EVANGELIST, Gordon Jones JESUS, Connor Burrowes treble, David James alto, Paul Agnew tenor, and Teppo Tolonen baritone. It was published by Brilliant Classics, recorded 25-30 March 1996 in the Chapel of New College, Oxford.

In 2009 a performance and live recording of the reconstructed version by Diethard Hellmann and Andreas Glöckner, in the Frauenkirche Dresden with the augmented ensemble Amarcord and the Kölner Akademie was conducted by Michael Alexander Willens. The lost recitatives were replaced by recitation.[3]


  1. ^ Examples can be found on youtube: recitatives: J. Boysen. "Und am ersten Tage der süßen Brodte".  and an aria: J. Boysen. "Angenehmes Mordgeschrei". 
  2. ^ Schablina, Tatjana. "Texte zur Music" in St. Petersburg – Weitere Funde, in: Bach-Jahrbuch 2009,The Knabenkantorei Basel is the first Choir to record this rekonstruction p. 11–48.
  3. ^ Michael Cookson (2010). "Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750) St. Mark Passion, BWV 247". Retrieved 2010-07-03. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bärenreiter. "St. Mark Passion BWV 247."
  • Butt, John. "Reconstructing Bach." Early Music. November 1998, 673–675.
  • Carus-Verlag. "Markuspassion."
  • Koopman, Ton. "Research."
  • Neumann, Werner. Sämtliche von Johann Sebastian Bach vertonte Texte. Leipzig: VEB D eutscher Verlag für Musik, 1974.
  • Melamed, Daniel R. Hearing Bach's Passions. "Parody and Reconstruction: the Saint Mark Passion BWV 247." New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Terry, Charles Sanford. Bach: The Cantatas and Oratorios, the Passions, the Magnificat, Lutheran Masses, and Motets. Five volumes in one. New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1972.
  • Theill, Gustav Adolf. Die Markuspassion von Joh. Seb. Bach (BWV 247). Steinfeld : Salvator, 1978.

External links[edit]