Advents- und Weihnachtszeit mit Singer Pur
The Singer Pur's Advent Calender: 24 Songs for Advent
I saw three ships sailing to Bethlehem: 20 German Christmas songs
Singer Pur: Claudia Reinhard (soprano, cello), Klaus Wenk (tenor, guitar), Markus Zapp (tenor), Manuel Warwitz (tenor, violin), Reiner Schneider-Waterberg (baritone), Marcus Schmdl (bass)
rec. 19–23 January 2008, Propstei St. Gerold, Vorarlberg, Austria (Christmas songs); 9–13 February 2015, Himmelfahrtskirche, Munich-Sendling, Germany (Advent), DDD
OEHMS CLASSICS OC1855 [67:48 + 56:02]

In the course of time numerous songs for Advent and Christmas have been written. Some of them have disseminated across the world and have been included in hymn books. One of the most famous is Stille Nacht (Silent night). Others are known because composers included them in cantatas and oratorios. One of the best-known examples is Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland which Johann Sebastian Bach used as starting point of two cantatas for Advent. However, most countries or even regions have their own repertoire which is mostly not known elsewhere. That makes the present set of discs especially interesting. Here we find a number of songs on German text which are very likely not known outside the German-speaking world. The fact that many of them are presented here in modern harmonisations or arrangements bears witness to the fact that they are part of a tradition which is still very much alive.

As one can see in the header this set comprises two recordings of different dates. The second disc, devoted to Christmas songs, was originally released in 2007, whereas the first which is devoted to Advent was recorded recently. The latter seems not to be available separately which is a bit disappointing for those who have the 2007 disc in their collection.

Both programmes are a mixture of early and more modern music. Most texts and many melodies date from the Middle Ages or from the 16th and 17th centuries. The latter are part of the large repertoire of hymns which came into existence in the wake of the Lutheran Reformation. One of the poets who considerably contributed to this hymn repertoire was Paul Gerhard. He cooperated closely with Johann Crüger; one of the fruits of their collaboration is Wie soll ich dich empfangen. A very moving text from his pen is Ich stehn an deiner Krippen hier from which four stanzas are sung (Ich lag in tiefer Todesnacht) in a setting by another contemporary of his, Johann Eccard. The latter is also responsible for one of the best-known Advent songs in Germany, Übers Gebirg Maria geht.

A number of pieces can be marked as 'traditional' which means that no author of text and/or melody is known. An example is Es ist ein Ros entsprungen; the text is from the 15th century, the earliest version of the melody is from 1599. Here we hear the setting with which it has become famous, written by Michael Praetorius and published in 1609. In particular in this category we find songs with a regional flavour, often in dialect, such as Es wird scho glei dumpa which is from Tirol. Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe du has a melody which is from Bavaria. A traditional song is also Drei Schiffe sah ich segeln, a translation of the English carol I saw three ships whose earliest version is from the 17th century and was published in 1833. That is not surprising: the 19th century was the time that composers and authors had a strong interest in history and tradition. Many collections of old texts, often with music, were published. Maria durch ein Dornwald ging is a folk song from Eichsfeld, a region in the southeast of Lower Saxonia, and was published in 1853 in a collection of sacred songs.

Not all the songs are from ancient times. The first disc opens with Wir sagen euch an den lieben Advent, whose text dates from 1954 and was written by Maria Ferschl. Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen was written in 1938 by Jochen Klepper, who - especially as his wife was Jewish - had to deal with the pressure of the Nazi regime; in 1942 they both committed suicide. We also meet some famous poets of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe du) and Joseph von Eichendorff, the author of O du stille Zeit.

Most songs were originally written for a single voice. Today we usually hear them in harmonisations or arrangements. I have already mentioned the settings by the likes of Eccard and Crüger. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern is sung in a setting by Johann Sebastian Bach, O Jesulein zart in a version by Samuel Scheidt. These discs includes many settings of a much later date, such as Es kommt ein Schiff geladen by Max Reger. The newest is Leise rieselt der Schnee by Heike Beckmann, written in 2014. Some of the more recent arrangements are quite modern in their use of harmony. Some arrangers have also taken quite some freedom in their treatment of the original material, but there are also more traditional settings, for instance Schlaf, mein Kindelein by Howard Arman.

Lastly there are a couple of original pieces from the the 20th century: Hugo Distler wrote the melody and the setting of Ich brach drei dürre Reiselein, Johannes Petzold composed the melody for Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen in 1939 and Christnacht is from the pen of Florian Mayr (born in 1962). The latter has a wonderful melody in the upper voice.

As one can see there is much variation in the programme of these two discs. If you prefer early music - like I do - some pieces may be a little hard to swallow. Not everything will probably appeal to you. But there is much to enjoy here. I already mentioned a modern piece with a fine melody. Some arrangements are quite original, for instance O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf. It ends with the line "je allzeit immer und ewiglich" (for ever and ever) and here the singers imitate bell ringing; after a while the number of voices is reduced to two and then to one, and the piece dies down like the bells of a church do when the ringing comes to an end. For the lover of vocal music of all periods there is much to discover here, but it is a shame that the lyrics - which have to be downloaded from the label's site - come without English translations. As many texts are not common it may be hard to find translations on the internet. This production also omits liner-notes.

However, those are the only points of criticism. The programmes of these two discs have been put together with much care; the performers have avoided trivial stuff. They treat every piece with respect and show much imagination in their interpretations. The singing is wonderful and blending and intonation are immaculate. If you look for something unconventional for Christmastide this is a release to be considered.

Johan van Veen

CD 1
Advent Songs
Heinrich ROHR (1902-1997), arr Oliver GIES (1973)
Wir sagen euch an den lieben Advent [3:22]
Martin LUTHER (1483-1546), arr Melchior VULPIUS (c1570-1615) / Andreas RASELIUS (c1563-1602) / Johann ECCARD (1553–1611) / Johann Hermann SCHEIN (1586–1630) / Michael PRAETORIUS (1571–1621)
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [3:09]
Johann ECCARD (1553–1611)
Übers Gebirg' Maria geht [3:00]
Hugo DISTLER (1908-1942)
Ich brach drei dürre Reiselei [2:03]
anon (19th C), arr Bernhard HOFFMANN (1959)
Lasst uns froh und munter sein [2:45]
anon (1608), arr Max REGER (1873-1916)
Adventlied – Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen [2:04]
Johann Athanasius FREYLINGHAUSEN (1670-1739), arr William HAWLEY (1950)
Macht hoch die Tür [3:00]
anon, arr Hugh KEYTE/Andrew PARROTT (1947)
Maria durch ein Dornwald ging [2:07]
Cesar BRESGEN (1913-1988), arr Marcus SCHMIDL (1971)
O du stille Zeit [2:46]
Georg Joseph VOGLER (1749-1814), arr Heinz-Walter SCHMITZ (1944)
Morgenstern der finstern Nacht [2:32]
Philipp NICOLAI (1556-1608), after Hans SACHS (1494-1576), arr Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme [1:50]
anon (1666), arr Reiko FÜTING (1970)
O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf [3:11]
anon (1608), arr Marcus SCHMIDL
Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen [4:08]
Johann ECCARD (1553–1611)
Nun liebe Seel', nun ist es Zeit [3:05]
anon (1836) / anon (France, 15th C), arr Florian MAYR (1962)
O komm, o komm, Immanuel [4:09]
anon (1602), arr Max REGER
Und unser lieben Frauen Traum [2:11]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759), arr Marcus SCHMIDL
Tochter Zion, freue dich [2:01]
Johannes PETZOLD (1912-1985), arr Jürgen ESSL (1961), Helmut BRAND (1959)
Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen [3:48]
anon (1538), arr Johann Sebastian BACH
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [2:43]
trad, arr Heike BECKMANN
Leise rieselt der Schnee [3:19]
Freu dich, du liaba Christ [1:52]
Johann CRÜGER (1598-1662), arr Friedrich ZIPP (1914-1997)
Wie soll ich dich empfangen [2:37]
Carl Gottlieb HERING (1766-1853), arr Samo IVACIC (1974)
Morgen, Kinder, wird's was geben [2:41]
trad, arr Sören SIEG (1966)
Fröhliche Weihnacht überall [3:14]

CD 2
Christmas songs
anon, arr William HAWLEY
In dulci jubilo [3:31]
Florian MAYR
Christnacht [2:12]
trad (Lower Rhine), arr Florian MAYR
Adventsruf [3:50]
trad, arr Reiko FÜTING
Maria durch ein' Dornwald ging [4:09]
trad, arr Michael PRAETORIUS
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [2:38]
trad (Bohemia), arr Peter WITTRICH (1959)
Kommet, ihr Hirten [2:15]
trad (Austria), arr Hans SCHANDERL (1960)
Der Heiland ist geboren [2:52]
trad (Bavaria), arr Hugh KEYTE/Andrew PARROTT/Clifford BARTLETT
Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe du [2:53]
trad (Tirol), arr Peter WITTRICH
Es wird scho glei dumpa [3:38]
trad, arr David OVERTON
Ein Kindlein in der Wiegen [2:24]
trad, arr Howard ARMAN (1954)
Schlaf, mein Kindelein [3:10]
trad, arr Claudia REINHARD (1974)
Vom Himmel hoch, ihr Engel kommt [2:52]
trad (Salzburg), arr Singer Pur
Still, still, still [2:00]
trad, arr Samuel SCHEIDT
O Jesulein zart [2:10]
Martin LUTHER, arr Johann ECCARD
Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier (Ich lag in tiefer Todesnacht) [2:54]
trad, arr Marcus SCHMIDL
Lieb Nachtigall, wach auf [1:59]
trad, arr Wolfram BUCHENBERG (1962)
Drei Schiffe sah ich segeln [2:14]
Christian LAHUSEN (1886-1975), arr Marcus SCHMIDL
Wisst ihr noch, wie es geschehen? [2:54]\
Franz GRUBER (1787-1863), arr Marcus SCHMIDL
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht [3:49]
trad (Tirol)
Es wird scho glei dumpa (Dreigesang) [1:27]


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