Advent Calendar Day 16 – Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen (Lo, how a rose up-springing) (Praetorius and Vulpius)

In honour of the rose-coloured vestments for Gaudete Sunday, I have decided that we are going to view this entire week through rose-themed glasses.  It helps that everyone, regardless of language, seems to have hit on the idea of associating Mary, and sometimes Jesus, with roses, so there is quite an astonishing range of rose-themed carols to choose from.

For today, we will start with a very famous German carol from the 16th century, with harmonies from the 17th century, so it’s nicely aged.  The complete lyrics (in both English and German) can be found by clicking through to the video I’ve attached below, but in this particular carol, it is Jesus who is depicted as a rose coming into bloom at midwinter from the branch of Jesse, and dispersing sweetness everywhere.

I was going to give you a straight choral version, à la Praetorius, and indeed, I thought that was what I had found here, but after the first verse it went unexpectedly fugal before returning to its original tune.  Surprise!  But one can never really have too much polyphony, so I’m all for it.

If this isn’t weird enough for you, Jan Sandström has had a turn at making it 20th century and atmospheric, which is pretty cool.  And if on the other hand, you are a traditionalist at heart, here’s a really lovely recording with Kathleen Battle and the Boys’ Choir of Harlem, which is beautifully sung and very peaceful.


Advent Calendar Day 12: Det är en ros utsprungen (Sandström)

I was looking for a good recording of the beautiful old German carol, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, when I found this.

It’s sort of the same carol, if you slowed it right down and made it strange and reflective and echoey and much more haunting and wistful.

Looking at Jan Sandström’s biography, he is apparently a contemporary composer – born in 1954, in fact – from Sweden, and his compositions include the Motorbike Concerto for trombone and orchestra.  Already, that sounds promising.  In fact, that sounds so promising, I had to go and find a recording of it, and because I love you, I am going to share it.  Here you go.  Don’t you feel better for listening to it?  It really does sound very motorbikish.  I’m not sure how much it sounds like a concerto, but I am 100% sure that Andrew, at least, is going to love this.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that Sandström’s specialty is writing music that sounds like a picture of what he is writing.  (I keep on wanting to call it music that is like a soundtrack, or sound effect, because to me that’s what it reminds me of, but this sounds as though I’m being dismissive, which really isn’t my intention)

Back to the carol, what you probably really want to know is that this composition was based on the version by Praetorius, written in the late 16th or early 17th century.  If you want to know how the carol usually sounds, here’s a rather lovely recording by the Cambridge Singers, directed by John Rutter, no less, which should give you the idea…