In November 1728, Prince Leopold of Cothen passed away all too young at age 34. A few years earlier, he had been the royal patron of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the call went out from the prince's family to their former music director to provide suitable music for the funeral observances, which were to take place in the spring of 1729. Bach provided a sequences of arias, recitatives and choruses to make up a grand funeral cantata, part to be played at the burial, part to be played during the memorial service back at the church. And he came from Leipzig with his wife – a star soprano soloist – to perform his work personally. As befitted the occasion, a booklet was printed up with the complete text. But the music has since disappeared….
But not so fast. Musical detectives to the rescue. Andrew Parrott has found that most of the missing music can actually be found in other pieces by Bach – specifically, the Saint Matthew Passion and the Trauer-Ode (Cantata No. 198 in the BWV edition). The texts fit, and the result, supplemented by recitatives composed by Parrott in Bach's style, makes a seamless whole.
Parrott gave the modern premiere of the piece with the New York Collegium in 2004 in New York, and has now recorded it with his Taverner Consort and Players, and vocal soloists Emily Van Evera (soprano), Clare Wilkinson (alto), Charles Daniels (tenor), and Thomas Meglioranza (bass). The recording was made a year ago November in Oxford, and has just been released in Europe by Avie Records, with release in the U.S. forthcoming.
I learned about this recording on Tom Meglioranza's website, and promptly ordered it from my favorite UK supplier, Presto Classical. The recording is marvelous. Parrott paces everything beautifully, the soloists are inspired, and chorus and period musicians are totally up to snuff, with great sound and a very informative set of program notes, including a detailed explanation by Parrott of how the work was reconstructed. So we can salute the entry of a "new" work into the Bach canon. Since the major part of the piece is culled from two of Bach's greatest works, the result is of the highest quality from the Leipzig maestro. Highly recommended!