Piotr Matwiejczuk, musicologist, editor of Polish Radio

Oratorio and Pucklitz

At the beginning of December 1747, an announcement appeared in the journal Danziger Erfahrungen, from which Danzigers could learn that for a fortnight, starting on Monday 11 December, Johann Daniel Pucklitz would be presenting a new work to all admirers of his talent: the cantata On the Greatly Different Lives and Deaths of the Godless and the God-fearing. The concerts were scheduled every day at 5 p.m. in a house belonging to Carl Braunitz, a good friend and professional colleague of the composer. The house was located near the Church of the Holy Spirit on Grobla IV Street. The house was located near the Church of the Holy Spirit on Grobla IV Street, a route connecting the Old Town with St. Mary’s Church, which was built in the Middle Ages on the floodplain of the Motlawa River. Tickets, priced at 1 florin and 15 cents, could be purchased by all interested parties directly from Puckliz or from Johann Weber, a carpenter working with him. In the advertisement, the work was referred to as a ‘cantata’, but on the cover of the manuscript and the title page of the libretto, the creator used the term ‘oratorio’. What was this musical genre in the mid-18th century in Protestant German circles? And where did the Italian ‘invention’ come from in the far north of Europe anyway?

The distant ancestors of the oratorio can be traced back to the medieval practice of setting dramatised religious forms to music. The genre also has its roots in mysteries and the so-called rappresentazioni sacre. However, things began in earnest at the beginning of the 17th century with the creation of a new type of singing – expressive accompanied monody. It was the result of an innovative idea described most succinctly and accurately by Claudio Monteverdi: oratio harmoniae domina absolutissima – “speech is the supreme ruler of music”. Monophonic singing, which is the best vehicle for the word and its meaning, and vocal-instrumental concertato began to be used at this time in madrigals, dialogues or dramatic cantatas, as exemplified by Monteverdi’s famous Duel between Tancredo and Clorinda. Above all, however, the accompanied monody became the basis of a new genre, the opera, whose emergence in the early 17th century marks the beginning of the musical Baroque era. The revolutionary innovation quickly became hugely popular and also infiltrated church music, particularly paraliturgical music forms, including oratorio.

It is widely believed that the oratorio originated in Rome, although it was in fact the fruit of a trend characteristic of many Italian centres: Florence, for example, at the time placed great emphasis on the dramatic element in sacred music. One might venture to say that in Italy, church and theatre have always stood close together, and often even intermingled in ways we can hardly imagine. The Roman circle of St Philip Neri certainly played a central role in this process, and it was there that the new genre got its name. St Filippo Neri (1515-1595), in response to the reformist ideas of the Council of Trent, began to organise informal prayer meetings held independently of the liturgy in the 1550s. Initially, only a few of the later saint’s closest associates took part in the prayers and religious discussions held at the church of S. Girolamo della Carità. An important element of the meetings was the performance of religious songs, a practice Neri no doubt remembered well from his childhood in Florence. As time went on, the meetings became more and more popular, so a special prayer room was created in the space above the nave of the church called the casa dell’oratorio (from the Latin oratio, ‘prayer’). In 1575, Pope Gregory XIII officially established the Congregazione dell’Oratorio and donated the church of S. Maria in Vallicella, then Chiesa Nuova, to Nerius and his followers. The Congregazione dell’Oratorio of St Philip Nerius still exists today, although its years of splendour – including its musical one – came to an end around the middle of the 18th century.

In the second half of the 16th century, the Roman casa dell’oratorio mainly resounded with simple three- or four-voice lauds in the poetic and musical styles popular at the time. More complex polyphonic works were taken up especially during the oratorio vespertino, which took place after vespers on winter feast days. The best Roman composers took part in these gatherings, and music was most often used to set narrative and dramatic texts. Of particular importance to the history of oratorio was the performance in 1600 of Emilio de Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo. This is the earliest large-scale dramatic work known to us today presented at the Chiesa Nuova, in which the solo parts are maintained in the new monodic style, although – because of the scenery, costumes, dance and acting used – it is certainly closer to an opera than an oratorio. However, it is the same sublime art of recitar cantando used by Cavalieri that became the basis of the genre that Pucklitz’s piece represents.

In the 16th and first half of the 17th century, the word ‘oratorio’ was used primarily to describe a place and the prayer meetings held there. The earliest use of the term in the sense of a musical genre was in 1640, when the Roman composer Pietro della Valle boasted in a letter to the Florentine music theorist Giovanni Battista Doni about his Oratorio della Purificatione, just created for the oratory at the Chiesa Nuova. It is true that the work is very short and the manuscript refers to it as a ‘dialogue’, but the first oratorios – unlike Pucklitz’s monumental work – were precisely of this small size, and various terms were still used with considerable freedom for a long time. They were composed to both Latin (oratorio latino) and Italian (oratorio volgare) texts, which were usually paraphrases of dramatically expressive stories taken from the Old or New Testament, often enriched with apocryphal themes and characters. Accompanied monody was ideally suited to present these musical elaborations of biblical stories. But older polyphony still appeared in them as well, while recitatives and arias – in Baroque oratorio, also in Pucklitz’s case, so starkly contrasting – were not particularly different from one another. This kind of music, which was intended to “with sweet deception attract sinners to the sacred exercises in the Oratory”, is contained, for example, in the collection Teatro armonico spirituale di madrigali (Rome, 1619) by Giovanni Francesco Aneria.

Over time, the oratorios grew in size and the initially modest musical means became increasingly rich and sophisticated. Among the quite substantial works are Francesco Balducci’s surviving libretti La fede: oratorio and Il trionfo: oratorio, published in print in the mid-1740s in Rome. The former is a narrative dramatic poem of more than 450 verses, divided into two parts. The work is based on the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, and contains long narrative sections marked ‘story’, as well as solo parts for Abraham, Isaac and choruses of virgins and sages. Among the largest in terms of duration and musically most ambitious examples of oratorio volgare from the mid-17th century are: Giacomo Carissimi’s Daniele, Marc Marazzoli’s San Tomaso, two anonymous works by Giuseppe and the Oratorio per la Settimana Santa (the earliest known passion oratorios). Their poetic libretti draw on the Old and New Testaments and hagiographical accounts. Each contains several solo parts as well as choruses, which at one time are the collective protagonist and at other times comment on the action. The pieces also include a narrator part labelled ‘Testo’. All are divided into two parts, each ending with a ‘madrigal’. The pieces were presented without scenery or stage action, and a sermon was usually delivered between the parts. Their performance time varies from about 30 minutes to just over an hour. Musically, they resemble secular operas and cantatas of the period: they accommodate recitatives, ariosos and arias held in a variety of forms. For the most part, only the accompaniment of a basso continuo group is provided for, but there are also passages in which the accompaniment of two violins is planned.

Latin oratorios were a separate genre in the mid-17th century. They used the same forms and modes of musical expression as oratorios in Italian, and differed not only in the language itself, but also in poetic form. For the oratorio volgare, a verse text was typical, as in lauds, madrigals, operas or cantatas; the oratorio latino, on the other hand, drew on the motet tradition, hence the libretto written in prose. The two types of oratorio also had a different social context: Latin oratorios were created and performed in aristocratic circles, for example in the Roman Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso at the church of San Marcello, where the Arciconfraternita del Santissimo Crocifisso was active. The aforementioned Pietro della Valle recorded in his diaries that the Dialogo di Esther with its libretto and music was performed there in 1640, about which we know today only that it is the first ever example of a work with a Latin text, which the composer himself described as an oratorio. The most prominent representative of oratorio latino at the time was Giacomo Carissimi. His superb, rich oratorio work became a model for many of his contemporaries and an inspiration for generations to come – not only in Italy, but also in northern Europe. Did Pucklitz know it? It is difficult to say, but we can assume – due to the immense popularity of the Italian master’s works – that his music also reached Gdansk. All of Carissimi’s oratorios are single-movement, and most are based on stories from the Old Testament and often use paraphrases of the original biblical text. They are action-packed works: the narrative and dialogical character of the librettos only occasionally changes to a contemplative one, for which arias are reserved. Alongside these, we can also find expressive recitativi ariosi, but also simple recitatives. An extremely important role in Carissimi’s oratorios – greater than in the works of any other composer of the time – is played by the choruses, which usually form the individual characters of a story. Some of them were planned on a grand scale – as many as twelve voices! Balthasar, Ezechias, Diluvium universale, Dives malus, Jephte, Jonas, Judicium extremum or Judicium Salomonis are examples of Carissimi’s oratorios, which were widely known throughout Europe. What must have particularly appealed to listeners in the 17th century in them was the expressive declamation of the text and the highly expressive nature of its musical elaboration, thanks to Carissimi’s masterful use of musical rhetorical figures. This feature is worth noting, as it will also be exceptionally important in the works of the following century, including those from the Protestant circle.

Over time, oratorios – although still performed in their original context – became popular as quasi-religious entertainment for the aristocracy. By the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, they had already become works of serious proportions: the standard performance time ranged from one and a half to two hours. Works of this kind were admired in numerous palaces, not only in Rome, especially during Lent, when the opera theatres were closed. In some cases, however, they retained their strictly sacred context – for example, in the Roman residences of Queen Cristina of Sweden, Cardinals Benedetto Pamphile and Pietro Ottoboni and Prince Ruspole. All too often, however, this character was lost, and in the interval between movements, the audience was treated to exquisite refreshments. No expense was spared in the construction of a decorated elevation for the performers, and at the back there was a painting relating to the theme of the oratorio. This is how Georg Friedrich Handel’s La Resurrezione was presented at Ruspole Palace on Easter Monday 1708. The boundaries between oratorio and opera were becoming dangerously blurred… In addition to the ‘divine Saxon’, who enjoyed a rather short stay in the Eternal City, the most important composers of oratorios of the late 17th and early 18th centuries there were Bernardo Pasquini, Antonio Stradella, Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonio Caldara. Of the Italian cities where the art of oratorio was successfully practised – both as a complement to prayer and as a secular event – Bologna, Modena, Florence and Venice should be mentioned in particular. The genre also gained favour with the Jesuits, for whom it proved to be an excellent educational tool, especially in the context of Counter-Reformation tendencies. Hagiographic tales of conversion were particularly well suited to this – moralistic stories whose eloquence was enhanced by evocative musical elaboration soon began to be used by the Reformed Church, against which they were initially directed.

In the second half of the 17th century and the first decades of the following century, librettists avoided introducing the figure of the narrator, and located the development of the plot rather in dialogues. The number of solo parts was usually limited to five, although there have been oratorios with as many as a dozen characters. It was the soloists who usually performed the perfunctory choruses, which in oratorio – as in opera of the time – were limited to the maximum. And just as in opera, stylistic changes began to take place in oratorio – even from the early years of the 18th century, elements of the Classical style can be heard more and more clearly in oratorio music: there is a larger and more colourful orchestra with concertato instruments, a clear division between recitatives and arias, a predominance of da capo form in the arias, in which coloratura passages also appear, dance stylisations, symmetrical phrases, homophonic texture – all of which can also be found in Pucklitz’s Oratorio Secondo. A set of characteristic compositional leanings also emerges, each of which was used in a particular type of aria. These types were intended to express feelings or create some kind of expressive mood – so there were arias of rage, revenge, love, lament or shepherd’s bliss; they also often imitated such extra-musical phenomena as birdsong, storm, wind or the sound of the sea. Early classical tendencies of this kind are particularly characteristic of the works of Antonio Caldara and, above all, Alessandro Scarlatti, whose oratorios are of paramount importance for the development of the genre. Examples of the most outstanding works representing both oratorio latino and the more fashionable oratorio volgare, in which late Baroque and early Classical styles are mixed, are: Handel’s La Resurrezione (1708), Antonio Vivaldi’s Juditha (1716) or Domitilla Caldara’s Santa Flavia.

From as early as the mid-17th century, Italian oratorio spread to other countries in Europe, although it was entertained only by the aristocratic strata, which meant that the genre was practised at Catholic courts most often as a substitute for the arch-popular Italian opera. Even local varieties of oratorio emerged, the most important of which was the Viennese sepolcro, also known as rappresentazione sacra – a type of passion oratorio performed only on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It was in Vienna that two of the most prominent authors and reformers of librettos (oratorio and opera) of the era were active: Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Metastasio. Zeno’s librettos are characterised by biblical themes but without divine figures, unity of place, time and action, and a structure and style that would allow the text to be staged even without music. Similar assumptions guided Metastasio, whose texts focus on the inner, psychological development of the drama, with external events being, as it were, outside the poetry, which only refers to them. Antonio Caldara and Johann Joseph Fux, two of the most important Viennese composers of the time, created music for the librettos of Zen and Metastasio that was more sophisticated than that composed on the Italian peninsula, more densely textured, polyphonically advanced, with longer, more complex phrases. Separate types of oratorio were created in France – here the most important composer was Marc-Antoine Charpentier – and in England, where the oratorio genre was completely dominated by Georg Friedrich Handel and his sacred dramas

German composers adapted Italian musical innovations very quickly – still at the beginning of the 17th century – but the oratorio itself – like the opera – was received rather reluctantly, as it did not find a suitable context for itself in the different type of Protestant religiosity. It must be remembered, however, that musical forms analogous to Italian oratorio had already existed in the Protestant tradition. They began to emerge in the mid-17th century, but it was not until the beginning of the following century that the term ‘oratorio’ began to be applied to them. Prior to this, terms such as stylus oratorius and actus oratorius referred more to the art of oratory. By contrast, the roots of oratorio in German can be found in the genres known as historia and actus musicus

A Lutheran story is a musically framed biblical story intended to be performed in church – it usually described the Passion, less often Easter or Christmas. Its origins date back to the 16th century, so it was born independently of Italian oratorio. Initially, the text came directly from Scripture, with only the words of the concise opening and concluding choruses outside it. It had a distinctly dramatised form and made use of responsorial singing, combining the narrator’s solo part maintained in a psalmic tone with polyphonic arrangements. As early as the early 17th century, it began to make use of basso continuo technique and monodic style, an outstanding example being Heinrich Schütz’s Historia der frölichen und siegreichen Aufferstehung unsers einigen Erlösers und Seligmachers Jesu Christi (Dresden, 1623). This work is sometimes referred to as an ‘Easter oratorio’, but in fact it differs significantly from it: the libretto consists exclusively of biblical quotations (except at the beginning and the end), and its development is not realistic from a dramaturgical point of view: the parts of each character are written out for two voices. Much closer to the oratorio – free of chorale influence and more realistic – is Schütz’s passion story Die Sieben Wortte unsers lieben Erlösers und Seeligmachers Jesu Christi (1645). But the work in which the great composer came closest to the oratorio genre – both in terms of size, dramatic treatment of individual parts and overall musical style – is the Christmas Historia der freuden- und gnadenreichen Geburth Gottes und Marien Sohnes, Jesu Christi, unsers einigen Mittlers, Erlösers und Seeligmachers (Dresden, 1664). Its libretto, however, still contains almost exclusively biblical quotations. 

Another genre practised by composers of the German circle was the actus musicus – it had a similar function and a similar general structure, was also used within a Lutheran service, and, like history, drew on Scripture. However, it contained more extra-biblical interpolations such as chorale or free poetry or prose, used musical characterisation in the service of drama, and its performance was closer to theatrical practice. Particularly significant is the latter feature, which meant that actus musicus often functioned outside the liturgy. The earliest known example of such a work is – freely based on the Gospel of Luke and fully dramatised – Andreas Fromm’s Actus musicus de Divite et Lazaro, das ist Musicalische Abbildung der Parabel vom Reichen Manne und Lazaro (Stettin, 1649). 

In the mid-17th century, German composers began to incorporate texts from outside the Bible into their passion stories, and these works are sometimes referred to as passion oratorios. As in the late Baroque passions, the Evangelist and other characters perform solo parts and the choir performs the part of the crowd (turba), the Gospel narrative is punctuated by contemplative interpolations (a choral rendition of a chorale or an Italian-style aria), recitatives are used and a concertante style close to opera is used. All this means that these works – still, after all, part of the liturgy – are already close to oratorio, although the word was never used by any composer. The earliest example of a passion oratorio is Thomas Selle’s Passio secundum Joannem cum intermediis (1643), while the best-known examples are the passions of Johann Sebastian Bach. 

A less important predecessor of the oratorio in German countries were dialogues, sometimes functioning within the liturgy as motets – short, narrative forms combining monody with polyphony, combining fragments of various biblical books with their paraphrases and chorale texts and allegorical figures. Among the composers of these small-scale works are Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt, Andreas Hammerschmidt, Kaspar Förster jr., Johann Rosenmüller, Matthias Weckmann or Dietrich Buxtehude. 

Buxtehude became famous, among other things, for his Abendmusik concert series, organised at the Marienkirche in Lübeck in the second half of the 17th century. Works close to oratorio figured prominently in the programmes of these entirely extra-liturgical events. At the beginning of the next century, Hamburg became the German centre for oratorio (and opera). Reinhard Keiser’s passion oratorio Der blutige und sterbende Jesus was performed in the cathedral there in 1705. Christian Friedrich Hunold, author of the libretto, which is entirely a poetic work, compared his text directly to Italian oratorios. However, this groundbreaking work in the history of music met with resistance from both clergy and town councillors. The authors were accused of being too theatrical and of omitting the narrator’s part. Nevertheless, by the middle of the second decade of the 18th century, Johann Mattheson had already started the tradition of performing oratorios as part of the liturgy during particularly solemn festivals. In parallel, they also began to function in the secular circuit. The direct heir to the work of Keiser and Hunold is Brockes’ famous passion oratorio Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (1712), which was musically developed by Georg Friedrich Haendel, Reinhard Keiser, Johann Mattheson and Georg Philipp Telemann, among others, as well as the Danzig-based calypsonian Johann Balthasar Christian Freislich, who brought the first seeds of his passion from his home town of Sonderhausen. They are at the same time the most important composers of German oratorio of the first half of the 18th century, whose achievements provide an important context for Pucklitz’s work in Danzig. Their works are modelled on German opera in terms of style and the forms used, and differ from their Italian counterparts by being more internally contrasted and differentiated. The librettists tended to disregard the classical principle of three unities, usually confined themselves to biblical themes (with the Passion story at the forefront), were keen to introduce allegorical characters, and made abundant use of Lutheran chorale and choruses with biblical texts. At the same time, it should be remembered that there was even more confusion with the names of musical genres in German countries than in Italy. One example is the three Bach masterpieces described by the composer himself as ‘oratorios’; the Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 is, after all, nothing more than a cycle of six cantatas, while the Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 and the Oratorium auf Himmelfahrt BWV 11 are close to history – their librettos are mostly contemplative, but include an Evangelist part whose text is made up of quotations from the Bible. The dialogic Easter Oratorio is closer to a cantata than an oratorio in terms of size, although its fully poetic text follows the tenets of the latter genre.

The fact that Johann Daniel Pucklitz’s work was called a ‘cantata’, even though the word ‘oratorio’ appears on the title page of the libretto, also testifies to a certain confusion of terminology, but also to the intermingling of musical genres in the German-speaking circle. But the libretto itself can also be perceived differently. In fact, there are two stories in it, set in two madrigal cantatas, although the moralistic overtones of the whole would not exist if either were missing – after all, it is about the contrast between the life of a sinful and a godly man. The libretto of the oratorio is richly encrusted – in keeping with German tradition – with chorale texts, but contains no biblical quotations. Its allegorical character is decidedly far from the narrative type of storytelling typical of German-language oratorio; it is rather closer to the Italian tradition. After all, no one tells any particular story here – we do not follow the characters’ struggles against adversity or with each other, we do not observe their spiritual transformation or relationship with God, no biblical story is recreated. Moreover, the libretto does not contain any specific characters at all – the names of the characters are missing, nor do they represent any concepts, feelings or states. Rather, it is a pure reflection on human nature or its duality. 

The first part, which is kept in dark colours, even gloomy, and more modestly orchestrated than the second, tells of the condemnation of those who disobey God’s law. The ‘fruits of disobedience, the state of wretchedness and misery’ of those who have themselves ‘nullified … their prosperity and chosen death for themselves and for us’ are shown. Separated from “God’s face”, at the end of their days they will feel terror and their spirit will go “in fear and trembling to hell, to the place of torment”. Their torment will last “as long as God exists in heaven / and hovers over all worlds”. The second movement sounds decidedly brighter and lighter, and at many points impresses with extremely colourful, varied instrumentation. This is the kind of music listened to by those who end their earthly lives in peace, as the tenor argues in the recitative at the very beginning of this movement: “Very clearly the death of a believer differs from that one. It is peaceful and joyful, and he sees it as something that can bring him more joy than mortality”. The second part of the oratorio is an encouragement to live likewise: “O, let us all join / with joyful tones / to the songs of the perfect in faith! / They live in joy, / they do not suffer, / They praise grace, they praise faithfulness / with joyful singing and joyful shouting”, we hear in the final tutti. 

The libretto is developed in a series of recitatives, arias, choruses, and everything is sealed from time to time with quotations from Protestant chorales. These serve a similar function to, for example, Bach’s Passions – through their use, the word (poetic in Pucklitz’s case, evangelical in Bach’s) meets directly with the voice of the Church. The authors of the texts of the songs used are Heinrich Albert, Juliana von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Johann Rist, Johann Friedrich Mayer, Johann Quirsfeld and others. 

Thus, Pucklitz’s work not only draws on earlier Italian and German traditions, but also fits into the more recent sentimental-classical line represented by the librettos of Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, as well as Karl Wilhelm Ramler or Justus Friedrich Wilhelm Zachariae. Some of their texts, maintained in a sentimental style, contain no narrative or dramatic elements at all, only emotional reflections of a religious nature. 

The size of Pucklitz’s oratorio, which takes about two hours to perform, is not unusual in the German tradition, but the monumentalism of the Gdansk composer’s concept is impressive and testifies to the popularity of the genre in the city on the Motlawa River at the end of the first half of the 18th century. When the anonymous librettist and composer decided to create such a large-scale work, they must have been sure that there was a demand for it. The circumstances of performance were also no longer unusual: in Hamburg, for example, the oratorio was an important part of secular concert life – a tradition established by Georg Philipp Telemann was successfully continued there by his godson Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. It is also worth remembering that with his oratorio Pucklitz joined the ranks of other Danzig-based continuators of Philipp Nerius’ work: Johann Jeremias du Grain or Friedrich Christian Mohrheim.

The musical forms used by Pucklitz in Oratorio Secondo are typical of late Baroque and early Classical oratorio and opera, with a clear division into recitatives, arias (above all of the da capo type), chorales and chorales. The latter, usually scored for homophonic chorus with instrumental accompaniment, are very richly encrusted throughout – they appear as many as twelve times, including in the finales of each movement. The three-part introductory sinfonia, which could be a separate concert piece, is impressive. The musical arrangement demonstrates not only an excellent composing technique, but also the unfettered imagination, courage and need for exploration of Pucklitz – a ‘renaissance man’, city musician of Gdańsk, who, however, never held any official function, but was instead active as an instrumentalist, organiser of concerts in the English House and cellar-dweller in Artus Court. Above all, one is struck by the large orchestra (some 50 musicians are needed to perform the work!) and the wealth of obbligato instruments used in the arias – not only violin, cello, viola, oboe, bassoon, trumpet and traverso flute, but also David’s harp and glass harmonica. The technical difficulties faced by both singers and instrumentalists makes one think with admiration about the musicians working in 18th-century Gdansk. 

Stylistically, the work of Pucklitz – five years younger than Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian – combines the great polyphonic, texturally dense Baroque tradition with the new, elegant and airy homophonic galant style. The expressiveness of some of the arias and recitatives brings Pucklitz’s music close to Empfindsamkeit – a style often described in Polish literature as a “style of intensified emotionality”, whose most outstanding representative in 18th century music was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. In addition, the composer from Gdańsk was thoroughly familiar with the Italian concertante style, which in his time was already well established in German countries. What is admirable is the freedom and sophistication with which the obbligato instruments accompany the soloists in the arias – many times it is not one, but two or three instruments at the same time. For example, in the extended soprano aria Weg kurze Freude dieser Welt! (“Down, fugitive joy of this world!”), the traverso flute, harpsichord and violone are in concert. Finally, it is worth noting the wealth of rhetorical figures – that ‘speech of sounds’ based on Baroque affect theory. In this aspect, too, Pucklitz proves to be a true master, and the saturation of rhetorical figures in the musical elaboration of the text almost everywhere is impressive. Pucklitz conveys the mood of a given passage of the libretto with expertise and freedom, often in a highly original manner, using sophisticated melodic and harmonic structures, evoking expressive feelings, illustrating the meanings of phrases or even individual words with sound. An example is the last tutti aria of the first movement, in which an earthquake, symbolising the end of the world, is extremely evocative: “Fall the mountains, collapse, / Cover us, choke the spirit! O! more than monstrous sorrows, / How you torment and oppress our hearts! / O! Infinitely hot flames, / Who shall deliver us from this heat?”. 

Johann Daniel Pucklitz’s musically superb and literarily fractious Oratorio Secondo: Der sehr unterschiedene Wandel und Tod der Gottlosen und Gottsfurchtigen both sums up the journey of the oratorio genre and goes beyond the oratorio oeuvre of the mid-18th century. In many ways, it is difficult to classify the work into any of the existing oratorio currents in Europe at the time. Rather, it is a fascinating exception, or perhaps (who knows!) it represents a separate 18th-century Danzig musical style that, like the city itself, had no counterparts. Perhaps the musical archives of the richest city of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, intensively explored in recent years, will show and confirm the existence of this style.