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Old Christmas Return'd - Christmas music and song from past ages
anon (English, 13th C)
Gabriel from heven-king [03:07]
trad, arr Michael PRAETORIUS (1571 - 1621)
Es ist ein ros entsprungen/
En natus est Emanuel/
trad, arr Michael PRAETORIUS, Bartholomeus GESIUS (1555 - 1611), Johann WALTER (1496 - 1570), Johann ECCARD (1553 - 1611)
In dulci jubilo [07:19]
anon (English, 15th C)
The seven joys of Mary [03:48]
anon (Piae Cantiones, 1582)
Joseph, lieber Joseph mein [02:25]
trad (France)
4 Carols (Nous voici dans la ville; Il est né; Les Anges dans nos campagnes; Touro-louro-louro! Lou gau canto) [06:02]
Jacob OBRECHT (1457/58 - 1505)
Den haghel ende die calde snee/
anon (Piae Cantiones, 1582)
Gaudete, Christus est natus [03:55]
The old year now away is fled (to the tune of Greensleeves) [01:28]
Anthony HOLBORNE (c1545 - 1602)
Almain The night watch [01:45]
trad (France)
Quittez pasteurs [02:03]
Thomas RAVENSCROFT (1582/83 - c1635)
Remember, O thou man [02:58]
Pavan Heigh-ho holyday - Galliard As it fell on a holy eve [01:53]
anon (English, 1642)
Drive the cold winter away [02:45]
Pavan The cradle - Galliard The new-yeeres gift [05:24]
anon (Flemish, 16th C)
Er is een kindeken geboren op d'aard/
trad (Cornish)
The Sans Day Carol [03:46]
trad (English)
The Gloucestershire wassail [02:12]
Richard Wistreich (bass), Robin Jeffrey (lute, guitar, cittern, theorbo), The York Waits
rec. February 1992, Forde Abbey, Dorset UK. DDD
SAYDISC CD-SDL 398 [50:53]

Experience Classicsonline

During the Middle Ages Christmas developed into the most popular feast of the church calendar. From early on it was closely connected to old, partly pre-Christian traditions. That is reflected in the music written for this time of the year. This disc presents a number of vocal and instrumental pieces, either sacred or profane, which are associated with Christmastide.

The disc starts with the earliest piece, dating from the late 13th century. It is sung in English here, but is probably French in origin. The international dissemination of songs is one of the features of Christmas music. The German songs, for instance, are well-known outside Germany. This is partly due to the fact that they were used by composers in sacred music. 'In dulci jubilo' is definitely one of the most popular in and outside Germany.

We also get a number of French 'carols' here; many of them were used by French composers of the 18th century, like Daquin and Balbastre, to write variations for organ. Some of these carols were also harmonised for instrumental ensemble by the French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Many of these have also become part of the international repertoire for Christmas.

A part of the English repertoire on this disc is connected to the turn of the year rather than Christmas. In particular the anonymous 'The old year now away is fled', set to the tune of 'Greensleeves' and published by Henry Playford in the late 17th century, and another anonymous song, 'Drive the cold winter away', are evidence of this.

In his programme notes John Merryweather specifically pays attention to the role of the waits in English towns and especially during the Cristmas season. This explains the choice of pieces and also the way this repertoire is performed. Like the waits their present-day namesakes use wind instruments: a consort of recorders, cornett, shawm, bagpipe, curtal, hurdy-gurdy, sackbut and rackett. In addition plucked instruments - cittern, guitar, lute and theorbo - are used.

The result is a truly engaging and highly entertaining disc. Anthony Barton, Tim Bayley, William Marshall, James Merryweather, Ian Richardson and Robin Jeffrey give very imaginative and technically assured performances, whether on the loud wind instruments - like shawm and rackett - or the softer recorders. They are joined by Richard Wistreich, who probably has not the most beautiful voice one can imagine, but sings this repertoire in an appropriate manner and merges well with the ensemble. Fortunately he doesn't fall into the trap of trying to make too much of the more popular items.

If you look for a disc with music which is only devoted to the Biblical message of Christmas, then you should choose something different. But if you are interested in the traditions around Christmas and their traces in music, this disc is not to be missed. I don't know if it will drive the cold winter away, but it certainly will warm the heart.

The booklet contains a list of the instruments used and informative programme notes, but no lyrics.

Johan van Veen

see also review by Em Marshall





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