Christian Heinrich Postel

Christian Heinrich Postel
Born (1658-10-11)11 October 1658
Freiburg an der Elbe
Died 22 March 1705(1705-03-22) (aged 46)
  • Jurist
  • Librettist

Christian Heinrich Postel (11 October 1658 – 22 March 1705) was a German jurist, epic poet and opera librettist, who wrote 28 libretti for the Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg, set by composers such as Johann Philipp Förtsch, Reinhard Keiser and Georg Philipp Telemann. His texts for a St John Passion were set by composers Christian Ritter, Johann Mattheson and Johann Sebastian Bach in his St John Passion.


Postel was born in Freiburg an der Elbe, the son of the theologian Lorenz Postel and his wife Dorothea, née Isentrut. His father was a minister at the Heiliggeistkirche in Hamburg. Christian Heinrich Postel attended the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums. He studied law at the University of Leipzig from 1680 with Christian Thomasius. When the plague threatened Leipzig, he continued his studies at the University of Rostock, where he graduated as a licentiate on 10 May 1683. He travelled for six months with Jacob von Melle, a historian and theologian, in the Netherlands, England and France. Their diary of the journey, "Beschreibung einer Reise durch das nordwestliche Deutschland, nach den Niederlanden und England im Jahre 1683" (Description of a journey through the north-western Germany, to the Netherlands and England in the year 1683), not printed until the 19th century, shows their many interests, especially in foreign universities and libraries.[1]

Back in Hamburg, he opened an office as a lawyer. He wrote 28 opera libretti for the Oper am Gänsemarkt from 1688 to 1702,[1] set by contemporary composers such as Johann Georg Conradi, Reinhard Keiser and Johann Sigismund Kusser. Georg Philipp Telemann set his libretto of Sieg der Schönheit (Victory of beauty). He adapted Jean Galbert de Campistron's tragedy Achille et Polyxène for an opera by Lully and Colasse, premiered in 1687, as a French-German cooperation unique in opera history. His opera libretto Die heilige Eugenia, oder die Bekehrung der Stadt Alexandria zum Christenthum ("St. Eugenia, or the conversion of Alexandria to Christianity"), was set by Johann Philipp Förtsch, premiered in 1688 and printed in 1695.[1]

Around 1700, Postel wrote the libretto for an oratorio Leiden und sterben Jesu Christi (Passion and death of Jesus Christ, or St John Passion).[2][3] A setting formerly attributed to George Frideric Handel is now believed to be by Christian Ritter. Another setting, called Das Lied des Lammes ("The Song of the Lamb") is by Johann Mattheson. Several parts of the text were used in Bach's St John Passion. While Postel is thought to have written all thirteen poetic pieces added to the Gospel text, it is certain only for three which were reprinted by Christian Friedrich Hunold,[4] while "Durch dein Gefängnis, Gottes Sohn" is among the other ten. Ritter and Mattheson composed it as an aria, while Bach set it as a chorale on the melody of the hymn "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" (Deal with me, God, according to your kindness). All three composers place it at the same position in the action, in the court hearing of Pilate.[4]

Postel died in Hamburg of consumption.[1]

Selected works



  1. 1 2 3 4 Elias, Julius (1888). "Postel, Christian Henrich" (in German). Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. pp. 465–473. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  2. Hoffman, William (2010). "Literary Origins of Bach's St. John Passion: 1704-1717". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  3. Ambrose, Z. Philip (2012). "BWV 245 Johannes-Passion". University of Vermont. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  4. 1 2 Dürr, Alfred (2000). Johann Sebastian Bach's St John Passion : Genesis, Transmission, and Meaning: Genesis, Transmission, and Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 36, 44. ISBN 0-19-158871-7. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
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