The Plague in Hamburg (1663)
Lamentations and texts of the Passion in pre-Bach Germany

Graciela Gibelli soprano
Fulvio Bettini baritone

Il Suonar Parlante Ensemble
Vittorio Ghielmi viol and conduction

Alessandro Tampieri violin
Luca Pianca lute
Lorenzo Ghielmi organ
Rodney Prada, Cristiano Contadin, Christoph Urbanetz viols 

music Heinrich Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Matthias Weckmann, Johannes Rosenmüller, and others


In 1663 the city of Hamburg was ravaged by a major plague epidemic that killed an estimated twenty thousand people. Matthias Weckmann, one of the most important North German musicians and composers in the pre-Bach period, was inspired by the plague for a piece on texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, scored for five viole da gamba, contralto and bass voices, with a somewhat reckless use of dissonances. Starting from this moving piece, Vittorio Ghielmi and his ensemble Suonar Parlante will propose some late-17th-century laments where the task of expressing man’s pain and despair in the critical transition from life to death is entrusted to the viole da gamba consort. The programme features a lamentation by Dieterich Buxtehude, whom Bach deeply admired, composed as a tribute to his father’s death. Also included in the programme is the Italian violinist and composer G.B. Fontana, known as “Giovanni Battista del violino” for his unmistakable virtuosic talent, who died during the plague that affected northern Italy in 1630. At the end of the programme’s time frame are some of Bach’s passion chorales, performed by the violas in the late-Renaissance way, perfectly suited to the four-part preludes of the Orgelbüchlein.