Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Reinhard Keiser, Brockes Passion, Passion Oratorio

Major Advisor

Eric Rice

Co-Major Advisor

James Spillane

Associate Advisor

Peter Kaminsky

Field of Study



Doctor of Musical Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Composer Reinhard Keiser (1764–1739) was admired by his contemporaries and exerted significant influence on them. His 1712 Passion setting on a text by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680–1747), Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus, was the first Passion oratorio to achieve widespread success, and from this point the genre flourished in Hamburg and beyond. This renowned, dramatic, and above all expressive libretto, which Keiser set the same year it was published, was subsequently set by more than thirteen composers, including George Frederic Handel (1716), Georg Philipp Telemann (1716), Johann Mattheson (1717), Johann Friedrich Fasch (1723), and Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1725). Thus the Passion oratorio in the early eighteenth century consisted largely of musical settings of Brockes’s text and was influenced by Italian operas. It was no longer composed for liturgical purposes, instead serving as a kind of theatrical form. Although interest in the Passion oratorio declined by the middle of the eighteenth century, and the genre is not often performed today, the two most notable exceptions — the surviving Passions by J. S. Bach — were in fact influenced by settings of Brockes’s libretto in general and by Keiser’s setting in particular.

The first chapter of this study consists of a brief summary of Keiser’s life, the context of the Lutheran liturgy in Keiser’s time, the purpose of the chorales in Passion, and the development of the Oratorio Passion in the early eighteenth century. In the next chapter, I discuss Brockes’s text, available sources of the piece, and the contents of the Keiser’s Brockes-Passion, including comparisons with settings by other composers. The third chapter suggests performance practices considerations for college-level performers and the modern editions of the piece that are currently available.