That Reinhard Keiser, a notable opera composer in Hamburg in an age of stiff competition, seems to have attracted the attention of Bach with his St Mark Passion of 1717 speaks volumes; many of the voice parts in one source are in Bach’s own hand which would suggest strongly that the Cantor performed the piece himself in Leipzig. There are many distinctive characteristics of Keiser’s setting where parallels with Bach’s Passions can be drawn, and indeed it is likely that Bach learnt a good deal from composers like Keiser who were applying operatic principles to religious themes.
Judging by the structural competence of Keiser’s setting, we can be sure that Bach was as interested in the skilful layout of the work as he was in the musical language, which combines an old-fashioned five-part orchestral texture with a more sophisticated and diverse use of current idioms … There are detailed traits which are most Bach like: a string accompanied Christus, reflective da capo arias, dramatic crowd involvement and a resourceful use of the chorale melody in several manifestations. More specifically, Keiser has a wonderfully Bachian habit of subtle harmonic colouring at well-chosen moments; some of those inimitably poignant and potent shadings in Bach’s passions are foreshadowed here.
“Christian Brembeck is a sympathetic director and his young group of musicians serve him well ... those who love German baroque vocal music and/or are interested in Bach’s close contemporaries and musical heritage will not be disappointed.” (Gramophone, March 1995)
Keiser, Reinhard: Markus-Passion
Passion Oratorio according to St. Mark