Brockes-Passion Spotlight | Interviews with Elizabeth Watts, Leo Duarte and Moritz Grimm
Soprano Elizabeth Watts, AAM Principal Oboist Leo Duarte and translator Moritz Grimm spoke with the Academy of Ancient Music about their favourite arias, dramatic moments and insights into the score of Handel’s Brockes-Passion, AAM’s 2018-2019 major recording project. Three hundred years from the first known performance (Hamburg, Holy week, 1719), the Academy of Ancient Music re-discovered this neglected masterpiece with a new edition of the music, new translation, new recording, and a concert performance on Good Friday 2019 at London’s Barbican Hall. Order your copy of this chart-topping new release by visiting our shop.
What is your favourite aria in the recording?
(Elizabeth Watts) “I have a huge soft spot for [Track 50] Die ihr Gottes Gnad’ versaumet. It’s two minutes of harmonic perfection…”
(Leo Duarte) “[Track 1] Symphonia – The sound of four oboes is something which would have been very familiar to Handel, but is not something you hear very often these days. Also, this version of the opening only features in manuscripts we’ve chosen to give preference to and, as such, isn’t on recordings by Concerto Copenhagen, Gottingen, Arcangelo, etc.”
(Moritz Grimm) “My favourite aria in the recording is when Judas realises what it is that he has done, which marries an incredibly rich text with some of Handel’s most emotionally charged writing.”
Favourite dramatic moment in the work?
(E. W.) “I loved singing [Track 33] Was Bärentatzen although I wrote myself some of the most ridiculously hard ornaments ever. But it was also a surprise just how vivid the recitatives are – really visceral writing. As the Daughter of Zion you have these incredible sequences of arias and recits that I’ve never seen anywhere else.”
(L. D.) “[Track 38] Heul du Schaum! – It’s not often I’m encouraged to make a truly scummy sound on the oboe, but when I am, I relish it. The continuo realisation of the opening motif is also extraordinarily disgusting, in the best way!”
(M. G.) “One of the key elements of the Brockes- Passion which sets it apart from other passion settings is its emphasis on drama, which played well into Handel’s operatic skills. The duet between Mary and Jesus [Track 82, Soll mein Kind...] is so unlike the Bach passions, and reveals a much more human side to the passion story.
Most memorable part of the rehearsal, performance and recording process?
(L. D.) “Finding out that our copy-text, Source B, matched closely with the newly uncovered Source L, and also with Jennens copy (Source H), was a very happy moment. That all three of these manuscripts which seem to have the closest provenance to Handel himself, agree with each other, and that they paint a picture somewhat different from that in the other available editions was a rewarding moment of scholarship.”
(M. G.) “There were many memorable moments of the process of creating the translation. Being asked to do it in the first place was a matter of coincidence – I’d never heard of the piece before being asked to prepare it for a friend’s performance in King’s College, Cambridge this year. My favourite part of it was definitely diving into the so richly wrought baroque text of Brockes and attempting to transfer some of that into my translation. The performance at the Barbican was of course the summit of the whole process for me.”
What is a little-known feature of Brockes-Passion that one might not know about?
(E. W.) “When working with Richard [Egarr], he lets us write our own ornaments. He of course has final say over anything but in my experience he rarely vetoes anything at all and it’s such a great way for all the singers’ different personalities to come across.”
(L. D.) “Handel reused some of my favourite music in his compositions Acis and Galatea (Trio – ‘O donnerwort’ becomes ‘Mourn all ye Muses’), Esther (Duet – ‘Soll mein Kind’ becomes ‘Who calls my parting soul from Death’), and his Op 3 Concerti Grossi (The opening Symphony is obviously used to form the basis of Op. No. 2, but also the chorus ‘Ein jeder she ism’ provides for an instrumental number in Op. 3 No. 3).”
(M. G.) “The language Brockes uses in the passion is so different from the Bach passions and is really written as a piece of drama, with only brief moments of biblical ‘quotations’. This makes it unique, and Handel knew to take full advantage of this, harnessing his operatic talents and creating this incredible, and underappreciated work.”
As told to Kemper Edwards (31/10/19)
Elizabeth Watts soprano
Leo Duarte oboe
Moritz Grimm translator