Hello everyone. We'd like to thank you all for making this a very good year, and for your always mind-boggling contributions of articles, comments, and questions. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you and wish everyone every blessing of the season and a very Merry Christmas, and best of the New Year to you and yours.
This year's Christmas music is, we hope, a fun selection, and for those who want a little further dive into Affektenlehre we offer a few little notes with some of the selections.
First up is In dulce jubilo, a little organ chorale attributed to JS Bach, but probably by one of his relatives, Michael Bach. The melody, In Dulce Jubilo is an old Latin hymn, which will be familiar to you as "Good Christian men rejoice".
One of my favorite pieces by JS Bach is his Magnificat, based on the Latin text of the Gospel of St. Luke, containing the Virgin Mary's response that she was to give human birth to the Son of God. Bach begins the piece with an exuberant joyous multi-leveled "dance", and proceeds throughout the entire piece, with arias, choruses, and ends on a final chorus, where he can't resist returning to the very beginning of the piece with "Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorom." ("As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, unto ages of ages.") It begins and ends in the key of D major (considered by some at the time to be a key of joy and majesty). The instrumentation varies considerably throughout the piece. Trumpets for glory, majesty, &c, woodwinds for pastoral settings, and so on, and of course, everyone playing in singing in the big choruses. A couple of my other favorites in this piece, besides the very beginning and ending, are the "Fecit potentiam..." with its wonderful painting of the text on "dispersit" (dispersing), and the tenor aria "Deposuit potentes de sede, et exultavit humiles" (He hath deposed the mighty from their seat, and exalted the humble and meek"). The melody literally "deposes" and then, as it rises, "exalts", and then falls again on "humiles."There are, as one might expect, all the other musical-rhetorical devices in play, skips and leaps, and so on throughout the piece. See if you can hear them (but enjoy the music above all).
This year, I've selected the Netherlands Bach Society version, so you can actually watch it being performed. (There are also short interviews on YouTube with the singers, instrumentalists, and the conductor that give some further insight; and imagine those trumpeters having to play those old baroque era trumpets, without valves, and play some of those melody lines entirely with their mouths and lips!):
One of the other great Baroque masters of the Affektenlehre was, of course, Georg Friederich Haendel. I know I've posted this short aria from his Dixit Dominus before, but it's very lovely, and this time I've included the score, so see if you can spot the little codes in this piece (and pay attention to those falling, and rising, scales):
One of my favorite movements from Charles-Marie Widor's 10 Organ symphonies, is the Finale (IV) from his Symphonie Gothique. This movement is based on a very old Latin Christmas hymn called the Puer natus est ( "for unto us a child is born" or in the Latin, "a boy is born." You can hear the melody of this hymn at the very start of this movement, in the uppermost voice, and again in the high, and low pedal reeds in the following sections). The piece has an "old sound" to it, and Widor deliberately resorts to some old harmonization techniques in spots to give it a "Gregorian chant" feel, along with the heavy use of reeds in the registration to make it sound like old medieval reeded woodwind instruments. The piece proceeds through various variations, breaks out into a toccata, gets progressively louder with the theme of the hymn belted out in the pedals, then, falls, fades, and ends with what I think is one of the lovliest endings in his music:
And for the penultimate, one of my favorite choruses from JS Bach's Christmas Oratorio(with the score for those interested):
And finally, let's dance a jig (with apologies to those who know I've posted this before):