Harmonia Early Music

Seasonal Settings And Angelic Appearances

We'll hear renaissance composers’ settings of Christmas chants, and behold angelic visitations. Featured release by Theatre of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
Gothic painting by Simone Martini

Photo: Carol Guillaume

Depiction of angel Gabriel's appearance to Mary. Painting by Simone Martini

0

Time capsule for this episode: 1512

A boy was born in Bethlehem

It’s time to celebrate the holidays with a selection of motets based on chants for the Christmas season!  Our first chant is Puer natus est nobis, a Introit that celebrates Christ’s birth. Its text reads: “A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us: Whose government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, the Angel of the Great Counsel.”

Tr. 16: Ad Missam in Die: Introit: Puer Natus Est Nobias (excerpt)
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola — The Chants of Christmas (GDCD, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

A motet would often complement or draw from the lesson of the worship service.  Renaissance composer Heinrich Finck’s setting of Puer natus est nobis was intended to be sung during the third Mass on Christmas Day.

Heinrich Finck (1444/5-1527): Puer natus est
Capilla Flamenca — Lumina: Christmas Around The 1500s (Eufoda/Cnd, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517): Puer natus est nobis
Clemencic Consort — Sacred Music at the Vienna Court Chapel (Oehms Classics, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

In praise of the Virgin Mary

We’re celebrating the holidays with a selection of motets based on chants for the Christmas season!  Our next chant is Alma redemptoris mater, a hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Heinrich Finck (1444/5-1527): Puer natus est
Capilla Flamenca — Lumina: Christmas Around The 1500s (Eufoda/Cnd, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

The ways in which composers incorporated chant melodies into their compositions were often ingenious.  One composer might spread a chant melody over the course of a motet as a long-note cantus firmus; another might use parts of a chant melody to begin an imitative point; yet another might manipulate a chant melody just so in order to create a canon.

Let’s  listen to Johannes Ockeghem’s setting of Alma redemptoris mater, which features a brief glimmer of the chant melody in the first sounding voice.  Following that, we’ll hear English Renaissance composer Peter Philips do the same—but with a bit of embellishment.

Johannes Ockeghem (1410-25-1497): Alma Redemptoris Mater
Oxford Camerata / Jeremy Summerly — Ockeghem: Missa L'Homme Arme (et al.) (Naxos, 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Peter Philips (c. 1560-1628): Alma redemptoris mater
Tudor Consort — Philips: Cantiones Sacrae / Quinis Vocibus (Naxos, 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Angelic appearances

We’ll explore three earthly angelic visitations.  Each angel arrives with joyous tidings and proof of God’s presence on earth.

The chant Angelus ad pastores ait recounts the revelation of Christ’s birth imparted by an angel to a group of awestruck shepherds.  The angel descends upon a field at night and cries, “I bring you tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day the Saviour of the world.  Alleluia!”

17th-century German composer Heinrich Scheidemann arranged Orlando di Lasso’s setting of Angelus ad pastores ait for organ, adding to the work his own variation and ornamentation.

Heinrich Scheidemann (c. 1595-1663) : Angelus ad pastores ait, WV 46
Bernard Fouccroulle — Scheidemann: Orgelwerke (Outhere, 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Another well known biblical scene recounts a visitation made by the angel Gabriel.  Appearing to Mary, Gabriel comforts the frightened maid and praises her for the great birth to come.

In the motet Ne timeas, Maria, Gabriel calms Mary’s doubts regarding the miraculous news of her immaculate conception.  “Fear not,” he says, “for you have found favour with the Lord: behold, you shall conceive and bring forth a son and he shall be called the Son of the Most High.”

Antonio Coma (b. 1560): Ne timeas, Maria
Francesco Tasini (et al.) — Antonio Coma: Sacrae Cantiones (Dynamic, 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

In the motet Duo seraphim, two angels cry to one another, “Holy is the Lord God of Hosts!  The whole earth is full of his glory!”

During the 16th and 17th centuries, this dramatic, angelic duo enjoyed much popularity among composers such as Claudio Monteverdi (who included the setting in his famous Vespers for the Blessed Virgin of 1610), Tomás Luis de Victoria, and Francesco Guerrero.  Listen for the duo of soprano and alto voices that begins Guerrero’s setting!  It may be that Guerrero attempted to render the angels’ annunciation through an artful use of lofty range…

Francisco Guerrero (1528-99): Duo seraphim
The Rose Ensemble — Seasons of Angels (Rose Records, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Featured release: The Christmas Story

On our featured release, Theatre of Voices joins with Ars Nova Copenhagen under the direction of Paul Hillier.  The recording titled The Christmas Story takes its inspiration from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which originated at King’s College, Cambridge in 1918.  This festival is structured around nine Biblical readings that alternate with well-known hymns and carols. 

This recording includes festive pieces from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, and from all over Europe.  From Italy, we’ll hear Biagio Tomasi’s Dum deambularet Dominus in Paradisum; from Germany, Johannes Eccard’s Maria wallt zum Heiligtum; and, from England, William Byrd’s O magnum mysterium.

William Byrd (1539/40-1623)/Johannes Eccard (1553-1611)/Biasio Tomasi: O magnum mysterium/Maria wallt zum Heiligtum/Dum deambularet Dominus in Paradisum
Theater of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen / Paul Hillier — The Christmas Story (Harmonia Mundi, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Heinrich Finck (1444/5-1527): Puer natus est
Capilla Flamenca — Lumina: Christmas Around The 1500s (Eufoda/Cnd, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517): Puer natus est nobis
Clemencic Consort — Sacred Music at the Vienna Court Chapel (Oehms Classics, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johannes Ockeghem (1410-25-1497): Alma Redemptoris Mater
Oxford Camerata / Jeremy Summerly — Ockeghem: Missa L'Homme Arme (et al.) (Naxos, 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Peter Philips (c. 1560-1628): Alma redemptoris mater
Tudor Consort — Philips: Cantiones Sacrae / Quinis Vocibus (Naxos, 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Scheidemann (c. 1595-1663) : Angelus ad pastores ait, WV 46
Bernard Fouccroulle — Scheidemann: Orgelwerke (Outhere, 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antonio Coma (b. 1560): Ne timeas, Maria
Francesco Tasini (et al.) — Antonio Coma: Sacrae Cantiones (Dynamic, 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Francisco Guerrero (1528-99): Duo seraphim
The Rose Ensemble — Seasons of Angels (Rose Records, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
William Byrd (1539/40-1623)/Johannes Eccard (1553-1611)/Biasio Tomasi: O magnum mysterium/Maria wallt zum Heiligtum/Dum deambularet Dominus in Paradisum
Theater of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen / Paul Hillier — The Christmas Story (Harmonia Mundi, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr. 16: Ad Missam in Die: Introit: Puer Natus Est Nobias (excerpt)
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola — The Chants of Christmas (GDCD, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tr.25: Antiphons To The Blessed Virgin Mary, Simple Tones: Alma Redemptoris Mater (excerpt)
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola — The Chants of Christmas (GDCD, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Laura Osterlund

Laura Osterlund is a scriptwriter for Harmonia, recorder player, and student at McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Canada. In 2007, she moved from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois to Montreal in pursuit of a B.Mus. with major concentrations in Early Music Performance and Music History. Laura is an active musician throughout Montreal and Chicago and an avid memberof the movement to promote Early Music performance, pedagogy, research, and appreciation throughout North America.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia