Revival after 267 years

Helmut Lauterwasser

Monday, April 25, 2022

We have received the following from our colleague Helmut Lauterwasser (RISM Germany):

Time and again RISM cataloging brings to light compositions that have been considered lost for centuries. A case in point is the oratorio Abraham und Isaac by Gottlob Harrer (1703-1755), Johann Sebastian Bach’s direct successor as cantor of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The full score of the work was found in 2018 while cataloging the music manuscripts of the Turmbibliothek in Nürtingen (RISM library siglum: D-NUEtb), which are today deposited in the Landeskirchliches Archiv in Stuttgart (D-Sla).

Such rediscovered sources (RISM ID no. 1001036816) can rarely be brought to new life in an actual performance, especially if the work—as in this case—fills an entire evening. But the Gellert-Ensemble, headed by Andreas Mitschke, accomplished the feat: 267 years after its first performance on Good Friday in 1755 in Leipzig, Harrer’s oratorio was performed again with historical instruments on 9 April 2022 in the Paul Gerhardt Church in Leipzig (Connewitz).

Christoph Koop spared no time and effort to produce a full score and playable instrumental parts on the basis of the 18th-century Nürtingen source material—without his devotion a modern performance would hardly have been conceivable.

While listening to the performance on the eve of Palm Sunday 2022, the Leipzig audience could experience strikingly how profoundly Passion music had changed after Bach’s death, with Harrer’s Passion oratorios.

Image: Gottlob Harrer, Abraham und Isaac, end of the full score (D-NUEtb 254, RISM ID no. 1001036816). Courtesy of the author.

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Category: Rediscovered


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