For part 2 of our series on Music for Christmastide, we will cover December 27th and 28th, or Days 3 and 4 of the 12 Days of Christmas. As was mentioned in part 1, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio can and should be used throughout the 12 days in addition to the individual pieces here. Happy listening!
Day 3(Dec. 27th): Mass for Christmas Day, Praetorius. . This piece is a fascinating look at how Christmas was celebrated in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, with “hold-overs” from the medieval era with some distinctly Lutheran “flavor.” In particular, the recording done by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort is quite good, and if you have good sound available to you, the acoustics inside the church give a nice “authentic” effect. Listen for some rousing renditions of “In Dulci Jubilo” (Good Christian Men Rejoice) and other familiar tunes. “Rousing” and “festive” while still being reverent.
Day 4 (Dec. 28th): O Magnum Mysterium (and other works), Victoria. If you have yet to make your acquaintance with the glories of Renascence church music, this piece by Victoria serves this purpose better than many others I can think of. Victoria was a pastor/priest in addition to being a brilliant composer, arguably the best in Spain during his time. Watch (or just listen) to this beautiful rendition by The Sixteen, and contemplate this text, translated from Latin:
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
In addition to this Motet, Victoria also composed an entire liturgy, which can be found with more music related to the birth of the Savior on this disc. Listen to the familiar “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the Highest) which comes from the Angels at Christmas, but is also sung every time the liturgy is performed in the West (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican).
Days 5 and 6 to follow…comments on your experiences with these pieces are of course welcome!