Der Tod Jesu

Der Tod Jesu (The Death of Jesus) is an oratorio libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler. In its setting by Carl Heinrich Graun in 1755, it was the most often performed Passion of the 18th century in Germany.

The poem is part of the Empfindsamkeit movement of the 1750s. It is the middle of three oratorio texts by Ramler – Die Hirten bei der Krippe zu Bethlehem, Der Tod Jesu, and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt – which may have been viewed by Ramler as a libretto cycle, though they were never set as a cycle by any composer.[1] The libretto was intended for Graun but a copy of Ramler's text was somehow received by Telemann who produced his own setting of the oratorio (TWV 5:6) in Hamburg before Graun could perform the premiere in Berlin. Ramler revised his text in 1760.

The text is not a full retelling of the Passion of Christ and it does not quote Bible texts. Instead, it presents emotively various aspects of the Passion.


Compositional style

Unlike Bach's Passions, Graun's setting does not imbue the tenor soloist with the role of narrator or Evangelist, nor is the bass cast as Vox Christi. The music is post-Baroque, an italianate galant style, and contains little counterpoint (notably in the duet, no. 17) or fugal movements (chorus no. 14 is a double fugue). Instead, it gives prominence to melody and voice. All arias are da capo arias with stylistic borrowings from opera arias. Grauner's recitative settings are highly expressive, culminating in the moving simplicity of the bass's recitative no. 23 on the death of Jesus, "Er ist nicht mehr!" (He is no more!). The last chorus starts quite powerfully, but then ebbs away into a mystical silence.


Graun's settings consists of 25 movements:

Part 1
  1. Chorale – Du, dessen Augen flossen
  2. Chorus – Sein Odem ist schwach
  3. Accompanied recitative (soprano) – Gethsemane! Gethsemane!
  4. Aria (soprano) – Du Held, auf den die Köcher
  5. Chorale – Wen hab' ich sonst als Dich allein
  6. Recitative (soprano) – Ach mein Immanuel!
  7. Aria (soprano) – Ein Gebet um neue Stärke
  8. Recitative (tenor) – Nun klingen Waffen
  9. Aria (tenor) – Ihr weichgeschaffnen Seelen
  10. Chorus – Unsre Seele ist gebeuget
  11. Chorale – Ich will von meiner Missetat
  12. Recitative (bass) – Jerusalem, voll Mordlust
  13. Aria (bass) – So stehet ein Berg Gottes
  14. Chorus – Christus hat uns ein Vorbild gelassen
Part 2
  1. Chorale – Ich werde Dir zu Ehren alles wagen
  2. Recitative (soprano) – Da stehet der traurige, verhängnisvolle Pfahl
  3. Duet (sopranos) – Feinde, die ihr mich betrübt
  4. Recitative (soprano) – Wer ist der Heilige, zum Muster uns verliehn
  5. Aria (soprano) – Singt dem göttlichen Propheten
  6. Chorus – Freuet euch alle ihr Frommen
  7. Chorale – Wie herrlich ist die neue Welt
  8. Recitative (bass) – Auf einmal fällt der aufgehaltne Schmerz
  9. Accompanied recitative (bass) – Es steigen Seraphim
  10. Chorale with bass solo – Ihr Augen, weint!
  11. Chorus – Hier liegen wir gerührte Sünder

A performance takes about 1 34 hours.

Selected recordings



  1. Howard E. Smither A History of the Oratorio 2000 p. 88 "One might also view the three texts by Carl Wilhelm Ramler – Die Hirten bei der Krippe zu Bethlehem, Der Tod Jesu, and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt – as a libretto cycle, but these seem never to have been set by a single composer."
  2. "Good Friday Musical devotion", The Cathedral Chamber Choir perform Der Tod Jesu
  3. Briscoe, James R. (2004). New Historical Anthology of Music by Women. 1 (2 ed.). Indiana University Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780253216830.
  4. Der Tod Jesu at Hyperion Recors, with extensive details

External links

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