Advent Calendar Day 22 – Rorate Coeli

And here we are on the fourth Sunday of Advent, which, according to all the sources I’ve found, means that it is time for a bit of Rorate Coeli.  This is a very lovely and very old text, which started its musical life as Gregorian chant, before becoming super-trendy in the 16th century, when Palestrina, Handl, Byrd and Schütz all got into it.

(Those who have spent any time in the Australian intervarsity choral scene might also be entertained by this alleged arrangement by Christopher Tye, which bears a striking resemblance to the Australian intervarsity choral anthem, only with a bit less punching of the air when one’s part comes in.)

The text is lovely, and translates to ‘Let the heavens drop down dew, and let the clouds rain down justice. Let the earth open and bring forth the Saviour.  The word used for bring forth is ‘germinet’, which really means ‘grow’, in a similar sense to ‘germinate’ – I like the image of the rain of justice making the ground fertile for the germination of salvation.

Most years, I find myself sharing the Schütz yet again, because it is so gorgeous and lively and bouncy, but we have spent most of the last week in the middle ages and the Baroque era, musically speaking, and I think a little bit of 19th century German Romanticism would do us all some good.  So today, you are getting the very lush setting of Rorate Caeli by Josef Rheinberger, a composer born in Liechtenstein but who lived most of his life in Germany.  I know very little about Rheinberger, but Wikipedia went out of its way to tell me that he had a very happy marriage with his wife, Fanny, who was a poet and wrote a lot of his lyrics.  This is not really germane to the music, but I think it’s rather sweet, so I am mentioning it anyway.



Advent Calendar Day 12: Meine Seele Erhebt Den Herren (Schütz)

Time for a Magnificat after all this penitence, don’t you think?  And you can always rely on Schütz for something gorgeous.

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Advent Calendar Day 22 – Rorate Coeli (Schütz)

I included this one last year.  I still love it, so we’re having it again.  Besides, it turns out that this is the text for Advent 4, which was last weekend (a time which seems very, very long ago).  I love the liveliness of this, and the beautiful singing, and I am determined to learn it and find people to sing it with one of these days.

No more today because I am too tired to think (and, alas, too tired to nap).  But at least I am on holiday now.  If I can actually *get* to sleep, I’ll be able to catch up a bit.

Advent Calendar Day 4 – Herzlich lieb hab ich dich o Herr (Schütz)

One disadvantage in putting together this advent calendar is the undoubted fact that I know nothing about liturgy and the lectionary. Other than my general Advent policy of all Mary, all the time, and a vague notion that penitential texts are called for, I don’t actually know which texts are appropriate, so I constantly have my ears pricked for hints.

Anyway, someone on my friendslist helpfully mentioned in passing that Psalm 18 is commonly read for the second Sunday in Advent. Score! Except that I don’t actually know any settings of Psalm 18 off the top of my head.  Not such a score… Fortunately, I am entirely shameless in my pursuit of Advent music, and have absolutely no hesitation in getting on Google and searching ‘Psalm 18 Bach’ ‘Psalm 18 Mendelssohn’ ‘Psalm 18 Handel’ ‘Psalm 18 Schutz’ until something comes up…

I hit the jackpot on ‘Schutz’, with more entries than I could poke a stick at. On closer inspection, this turned out to be because the word ‘schutz’ actually means refuge in German, and this particular psalm is all about the Lord being one’s help and refuge, so ‘schutz’ comes up pretty often. Still, if my name meant something interesting, I’d be composing music with that word in it all the time. On this principal, I tried ‘Psalm 18 Heinrich Schütz’ (yes, with umlaut this time), and voilà! Not just Psalm 18, but Psalm 18 as an alto solo!

I always suspected Schütz was on my side.

On the other hand… I just don’t know what to make of this piece of music. I feel as though I should like it more than I do. I mean, it’s an alto solo! And it’s Schütz – the man who perpetrated that fabulous Rorate Coeli! How can it be bad? I suspect that if I spoke German better, I’d love it – it feels as though it’s doing the awesome Gibbons thing of following vocal inflections and speech rhythms, and is reminding me of a verse anthem, only without the anthem bits (this would be awesome with some choral sections).

But there is something about it, nonetheless. I can tell, because I’ve just listened to it twice in a row, and I’m fascinated enough that I’d probably listen to it a couple more times if Andrew weren’t sitting next to me, trying to not be driven insane by my musical choices.

I think I’d like to sing this sometime. But I think I will have to improve my German first.

Edited in December 17: And can I find this recording, or indeed any other with a female alto now?  Indeed I cannot!  So here is Matteo Messori singing it, and sounding very lovely and not deserving any of my resentment that he is a male alto!  (It’s actually a very lovely interpretation, I’m just sulking.)


Advent Calendar Day 18 – Rorate Coeli (Schütz)

Today’s post is a bit late, because I was attending a wedding, and because I was far too tired to get up early and do this beforehand.

But perhaps I should have, because today’s piece is so bright and lively and delightful that it would wake anyone up in a good mood. I’ve never sung this one or heard of it until I went seeking Advent music and kept hearing about this piece, but I’ve been playing it again and again and I really, really want to sing it now. It’s just so joyous, and feels more like a madrigal in the way it’s put together than any other church music I’ve heard; something about how close all the echoes come to each other or something, and its brisk tempo. It’s fast polyphony with lots of coloratura, and I think this is my new favourite kind of music, because I’m fairly sure I’ve ever sung anything quite like it. And for once a choir with female sopranos and altos!

Also, the text is rather delightful:

The heavens spill forth dew,
and the clouds rain down justice,
that the earth below might open up
and cause Our Savior to take seed.