Music for Passiontide & Easter

Started by Que, April 09, 2011, 12:44:50 AM

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We already have a Christmas music thread, but a thread about this musically significant time of the year was still missing! :)

Please post recommendations of recordings and works that focus on the religious themes of Christianity in this time of the church year: whether Passions, Stabat Maters, etc.

Please remember we have already threads on Bach's two famous Passions:

Bach's St. Matthew Passion

Bach's Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion




Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen


I would second Drasko's recommendation of Gesualdo's Tenebrae, the music for the last three days of Holy Week - really awesome. And the from the French tradition of Leçons de Ténèbres Delalande, but naturally F. Couperin's have to be mentioned as well! :) What I have failed to do yet, is get Charpentier's.. :-\ (Which recording would you reommend, Drakso? :))


Part of the Tenebrae are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, there is a beautiful setting by Neapolitan School composer Francesco Durante (looking for a picture I came across a newer recording by Fasolis on Arts - would check that one out as well)

Haydn's depiction of the Seven Last Words - I'm recommending the oratorio version by Harnoncourt:


Oh, and to conclude a Stabat Mater - Domenico Scarlatti's Stabat Mater for Ten Voices is a real hidden treasure:


More to follow - I have a recording of Schütz's Lukas Passion waiting to be listend to! :)



Quote from: Que on April 10, 2011, 12:24:06 AM
What I have failed to do yet, is get Charpentier's.. :-\ (Which recording would you reommend, Drasko? :))

Don't have Charpentier's Lecons, don't think I even heard them.

As for Lamentations, Krenek is great:


I thought of another goodie which I put on symphonyshare recently, because I enjoyed it so much more than others. Scherchen's seven last words

Also Deller's Lecons de couperin, or maybe Cuenod's
[asin]B00005B6RO[/asin]  [asin]B000SZX20C[/asin]
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen


Quote from: Que on April 10, 2011, 12:24:06 AM
I would second Drasko's recommendation of Gesualdo's Tenebrae, the music for the last three days of Holy Week - really awesome.

Yes, as well as wonderful settings of the Tenebrae Responsories by (to name but two great favorites of mine) Tomas Luis de Victoria and Orlando Gibbons (thinking in particular of Tristis est anima mea.)

And, for those of us who like hanging in the Living Composers Ghetto: Ivan Moody, Passione popolare:

Antoine Marchand

Following the French path, these recordings are outstanding:

French Sacred Music, Virgin VBD 4820132 (5 CDs 2004). Reissue without liner notes, texts, or translations of Charpenter, Leçons de Ténèbres (3 CDs), Clerambault, Motets pour Saint-Sulpice (1 CD), & Brossard, Leçons de morts (1 CD). Gérard Lesne, countertenor & director, Il Seminario Musicale.

Couperin - Leçons de Ténèbres / Daneman, Petibon, Les Arts Florissants, Christie

I think these two reviews on Amazon deliver a quite exact vision of this wonderful disc:

QuoteAn exquisite shining pearl - perfect, simply perfect., April 30, 2004
By Ingrid Heyn "No man is an Iland, intire of it... (Melbourne, Australia)

I possess every recording of these leçons that is currently available. As a soprano with a deep love for the baroque repertoire, I have performed these with fellow singer Katrena Mitchell in our duet ensemble "Sounds Sublime". The pieces themselves are as familiar to me as a byte is to a computer expert...

... and there is simply no recording to compete with this one.

It's exquisite from the very opening. In particular when Sophie Daneman and Patricia Petibon sing together, the work between the two and the ravishing vocal blend is something of which dreams are made. The pronunciation of the Latin is beautifully French, as it would have been performed at the time. The ornamentation and musicianship here is superb, as one would expect from a recording conducted by William Christie.

But the two singers are the highlight here, in this most ravishing of performances.

I have an enormous admiration for Emma Kirkby, but the recording of this work with her and Judith Nelson is stiff, unemotional, and blank in comparison with this recording. (I do not admire Nelson's voice, either, however much I admire Kirkby's.) The vocal beauty on this recording is truly sublime - this CD is one I listen to over and over again, always with a sigh and a smile.

Other versions, including a surprisingly bland rendition by Gens and Sandrine Piau, and two good countertenor versions and one not-so-good (oh dear, Deller...) are available, but nothing approaches the shimmering beauty of this version.

The pieces themselves are of heavenly beauty. I've never performed them without seeing audience members weeping with the beauty of the music.

I recommend this CD strongly.

QuoteBy Joanna Daneman (Middletown, DE USA)

The service of Tenebrae (time of darkness--traditionally celebrated at 3 am) is a Holy Week liturgy taken from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. The other reason for the title "Darkness" is that it is accompanied by the solemn ceremony of stripping the altar before the total eclipse of Good Friday. Lighting is gradually reduced throughout the service, initially being fully lit, frequently by candles which are gradually extinguished as the service progresses, thus the name Tenebrae meaning Darkness is virtually performed as well.

Couperin's settings (composed in 1703) uses a few voices and few instrumentals in the French tradition of the service. This recording features sopranos Patricia Petibon and Sophie Daneman. The performance follows the French tradition also in the pronunciation of the Latin. The conductor took great care to reproduce the performance as the French would have heard it, and if you want the genuine experience, this recording surely comes the closest (as far as we can tell, from historical records.)


I absolutely adore Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Russian Easter Festival Overture'.  Such an energetic, delightful work.

I made a huge mistake, earlier this week, of listening to this piece just before bedtime.  I could not fall asleep for hours because I was so energized and pumped up, and I was toe tapping and air conducting like a maniac.

I especially love the use of the triangle and the percussion in this marvelous work!  :)


First of all, I would like to mention Henning's Passion. Mandatory listening.

Of other recent pieces, there's a Passion by Knittel, which was received very well over here, but for some reason I can't "get into" it.

I guess no one (apart from me) knows Jozef Elsner's Passion. I like it well enough, though not being exactly well-versed in music of that style/period (don't even know Haydn's masses well) I can't really offer an informed opinion. Should be interesting at least by virtue of it being composed by Fryderyk Chopin's teacher.

(The one I know must be a different recording...)

It's odd to realize that the Passion I have been most faithful to over the years is Penderecki's... I truly love Bach and listen to his two a lot. And yet, despite the fact that I have "only" one recording of the Penderecki, it has somehow gained precedence. I do not listen to it as often as to Bach's passions - but I listen to Bach's at various moments in the year, while the Penderecki I associate almost strictly with Lent.

BTW, since the Stabat Mater sequence has been mentioned as well - Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, along with his Litany to the Virgin Mary, have got to be among the most beautiful things he ever composed.

And speaking of Penderecki, I have made a habit of listening to the second part of Utrenja (Resurrection) on Easter mornings.

Very odd - I don't listen to Penderecki all that much, generally. But these two pieces of his appear to hold a surprisingly important place in my listening.


Off the beaten track

and the relevant parts from

(Caldara, Paisiello, Salieri and Myslivecek used the same libretto by Pietro Metastasio)
There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law. — Claude Debussy

The new erato




Quote from: The new erato on April 11, 2011, 07:22:15 AM


Wasn't this MN Dave's avatar for awhile?  :)


A resounding seconding of the Caldara recommendations! :)

Another interesting recording with music of CPE - Kuijken also did a recording of this on Hyperion, but havent heard that.



The new erato

Quote from: Que on April 14, 2011, 10:49:41 PM
A resounding seconding of the Caldara recommendations! :)

I have both those caldaras as well as your CPE recommendation.

It seems to me that Caldara is one of the major baroque "discoveries" of later years and a composer in dire needs of wider representation (I have recently received his Piu del Nome on Glossa and am looking forward to aquainting myself  with that).


Is there anything in English (apart from Messiah)?


Well, my setting of the St John Passion is in English . . . .



Here is a great favourite of mine:

Here is my review from the vocal recital thread.

'This disc combines 17 century pieces with Sicilian folk songs. The progress of the disc revolves around Mary's meditations looking at her child; she sees the pain of the future. The second part of the programme takes in the fulfillment of Mary's visions in the Crucifixion and finally, the resurrection.

The singing is divided between Nuria Rial, Philippe Jaroussky and the male quartet Barbara Furtuna, who provide an earthy tang to set against the pellucid sounds made by the others. There is enormous pleasure here, the orchestra is made up of about 25 musicians playing such as baroque guitars, psalterion, dulcimer, viole de gambe etc. Rich, but never overwhelming.

There is some extemporisation. Possibly the most famous piece here is Merula's 'Hor ch'e tempo di dormire' a hypnotic piece where the accompaniment rests on two notes, back and forth rocking as Mary envisions the child in her arms in his final pain. It is a remarkable piece. In this version, the musicians have provided some quite violent harmonies at the ends of some verses. It works, Rial's light soprano is a beautiful instrument; but although I enjoy this version, I prefer the austerity of the original as voiced by the plangent tones of Sarah Mingardo.

But there is so much to beguile here. It is not a procession of miserable and dolorous music any more than you might extract from Bach's music when covering the painful parts of the journey.

This is an original and marvelous progression of pieces, Rossi, Cazzati, Biber and many others. The colours glow, the melodies are sinuous. A really beautiful disc of mainly little known music.'

Try this to get a flavour of the sounds........
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.


The Vivaldi Stabat Mater is a beautiful piece. Two of my favourite versions are each lead by counter tenors. Either will give a lot of pleasure.

Andreas Scholl or David Daniels. The latter is the one I go back to most often. Here is Daniels, in his considered reading of the text and his shaded, subtle singing:

For Pergolesi's setting of the same texts I also suggest two versions. These are in great contrast to one another. One is a DG recording made in 1985 with the LSO, Margaret Marshall and Lucia Valentini Terrani. This is of course far from HIP; but the performances are really beautiful and moving. Marshall phrases wonderfully and for certain moments I don't know of another performer to equal her. It is not slushy and romantic, but certainly full in the sound of the accompaniment. In the extract you can hear what I so like about Marshall's singing. An underrated artist.

Here is the entire recording. Do try Marshall's entry at 13.12

In contrast there is the hair shirt, pared down sound of Concerto Italiano conducted by Alessandrini on Naive. The singers are Mingardo and Gemma Bertagnolli. This is the real deal Good Friday material.

Different as they are, I would not be without either version.

DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.