Última Cena, Juan de Juanes

Selections from The Passion according to St. Mark and Brockes-Passion
Presented by the early music ensemble A Joyful Noyse
Sunday, March 5th, at 3:00 p.m.
Hancock Church, 1912 Mass. Ave., Lexington, MA
$15 Donation to support the Hancock Music Program

Although Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739) was known primarily as a celebrated opera composer, whose works in that genre numbered well over one hundred, his sacred music also gained great respect and influenced the works of his contemporaries, including J.S. Bach, Handel and Telemann. In 1685, the same year that both Bach and Handel were born, the eleven year old Reinhard began studies at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. This was the same institution where Bach would find employment as cantor thirty-eight years later.

After working as court-composer for the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, where his first operas were composed, Keiser settled in Hamburg in 1697. There, he worked as the chief composer and occasional director of the renowned Operhaus an Gänsemarkt (Opera House near the Goose Market) which attracted some of the best and most famous composers of that period. Because of personal financial “difficulties”, political uncertainty in Hamburg and the demise of the opera house, Keiser was forced to leave the city in 1718.

After a period of instability, working alternately in Copenhagen and Hamburg, Keiser returned to Hamburg permanently in 1728 to become the cantor of the Hamburg Cathedral. His interests then turned to sacred compositions and he retired from writing operas entirely.

The poet Barhold Heinrich Brockes, in 1712, wrote the text to what is considered to be one of the first passion oratorios, a free poetic meditation on the passion story, structured like an opera. In that same year Keiser set the text to music and the work was performed in Brockes’ house in a private performance. The work gained immense popularity and Brockes text was utilized by numerous composers, including Handel and Telemann, in the following years.

The Passion according to St. Mark was probably first performed in Weimar in 1712 or 1713, and possibly directed by J.S. Bach. It was performed again in Leipzig in 1726 and 1748 under the direction and with some alteration by Bach.