A German Christmas

Floral design

17th-Century Music for the Time of Advent and Christmas
Margaretha Consort, Marit Broekroelofs
Naxos 8.551398

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his recording follows a pattern familiar from several other recent releases, presenting various settings of the same text within single tracks. Thus, for example, we have the Lord’s Prayer (Vater Unser…) by Hans Leo Hassler, Johann Steigleder and Jacob Praetorius. The performances are given by nine solo singers (SSSAATTBB), a congregation and a group of instrumentalists playing viols, a cornetto, drums and bells, a chamber organ and the church organ. Taking the aforementioned track as an example, the Lord’s Prayer is performed instrumentally, but the first version (Hassler) is noticeably quicker than the second (viol consort) and the third (bass viol playing the melody under organ ornamentation) is at another speed; then comes a mysterious “Part 4” which appears to be an arrangement (of what?) featuring some beautifully executed, incredibly intricate ornamentation on the cornetto. All of this is wonderful and provides a rich, varied and valuable insight into the world of musicians of the time, but ultimately it is artificial since no 17th-century performance could ever have actually been like this. The booklet notes explain this away convincingly enough, but they do not mention the (to me, at least) unnecessary and unnecessarily polyrhythmic percussion parts added at various junctures – they’re just a needless distraction (again, my opinion). In short, this is a nice recording of fine performances in a variety of styles of popular music for the festive period.

Brian Clark

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