Recording Premiere of Rolle's St. Matthew Passion
Following the release of the richly colored Christmas Oratorio (7988743), many of you no doubt now have a special place in your hearts for Johann Heinrich Rolle, who was active as the Director musices and Kantor at the Altstädtisches Gymnasium in Magdeburg for more than thirty years and unfortunately today continues to be little known. In his travel writings the English music historian Charles Burney described Rolle, who enjoyed great popularity during his lifetime, as a fiery composer rich in invention who had gained fame and illustrious renown with his works for the church. The obituaries penned on his death emphasized his »outstanding compositions« and »early genius.« On the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of Rolle's birth, we are pleased to be able to present to you the first recording of his St. Matthew Passion of 1748. The music is set to the text of Martin Luther's translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew (from chapter 26, verse 30, to the end of chapter 27), individual chorale strophes, and free texts whose author is not named and has not yet been identified. The biblical text is set in secco recitatives, accompagnati, and ariosi (shorter segments resembling arias) with the accompaniment of strings and turba choruses, while accompagnato recitatives, arias, duets, and large framing choral numbers are intended for the free poetic texts. Rolle designs larger dramatic scenes in which one individual segment goes over into the next. Arias and chorale strophes commenting on the biblical events from the perspective of the individual Christian and the whole of Christendom and underscoring and summarizing their theological significance occur at the end of each of the scenes. Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance, who begins his passion oratorio of the same name with the last reference to Jesus's passion (Matthew 26: 1-2), Rolle omits this traditional scene and that of the Last Supper, which includes the words of institution; he begins with the foreshadowing of Peter's denial. On the whole, it may be said that Rolle's St. Matthew Passion represents a characteristic composition from the age of sensibility. The drama of the historical events may dominate the content, but it is the consoling message of the Christian believer's firm faith in salvation that occupies this composer's center of interest and has its musical fixed point in the arias.