|About this Recording
2.110546 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - CHRISTMAS GOES BAROQUE: A Musical Tour of Switzerland, Germany and Belgium (NTSC)
Christmas Goes Baroque
Zurich by night
The city of Zurich, capital of its canton and a flourishing urban centre is in a predominantly German-speaking region of Switzerland and is of ancient origin. A Helvetian settlement, its fortress fell to the Romans in 68 B.C. and it was later occupied by the Alemanni and the Franks. In the 16th century it became a centre of Protestantism, under the influence of Zwingli. At Christmas, as in other Western cities, the streets are lit in celebration of the festival.
Music Stille Nacht (Silent Night) by Franz Xaver Gruber
The popular carol Silent Night, written in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber for the Church of St Nicholas at Oberndorf in Austria, is here given all the dignity of Bach.
In the cold light of a winter day Zurich has a bleaker appearance. The city stands on both sides of the River Limmat, its great cathedral, with its twin towers, is on the East bank.
Music We wish you a merry Christmas
The traditional English We wish you a merry Christmas is treated more directly, but contrasted with a trio section.
Father Christmas rings his bell, summoning customers to a display of musical instruments in a shop window, while in the streets student buskers attempt to entertain passers by.
Music Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells, a secular evocation of winter and Christmas, opens here with a mood of baroque celebration, giving way to wind solos before the familiar melody emerges.
Zurich: Christmas Crib
An elaborate Christmas crib offers a panorama of the fields near Bethlehem, and the sheep and the shepherds that watched their flocks, when angels appeared to them to announce the birth of Christ in a manger. Life-like ox and ass look on, as St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin wonder at the Child that has been born.
Music Kommet, ihr Hirten (Come, ye shepherds)
The German carol Kommet, ihr Hirten is based on an old Bohemian melody. The carol is treated with the contrasts of a concerto grosso, before a trumpet solo proclaims the melody.
Zurich: Franz-Carl Weber’s
The Franz-Carl Weber toy-shop offers a fine Christmas display of soft toys of all kinds, with other attractive goods, a fascinating place to visit at Christmas.
Music Alle Jahre wieder (Every year again comes the Christ child)
The melody of Alle Jahre wieder by Friedrich Silcher, written in the 19th century, is first introduced, before the arrangement moves on to fugal treatment of the material.
The Great Minster or Grossmünster was erected in the early 12th century on the site of an earlier building and completed in the 13th century. It was here in the 16th century that the Protestant reformer Zwingli preached. In the dark interior candles are lit, as singers prepare for Christmas. The two towers, with their curious sugar-castor lanterns, were constructed in the 18th century, to replace twin spires damaged by lightning.
Music God rest ye merry, gentlemen
The traditional English carol God rest ye merry, gentlemen is presented in a more sombre guise, opening with a two-part version for wind instruments.
Engadine: Celerina • Pontresina: Church of Santa Maria
The Engadine region of Switzerland is essentially a Romantsch-speaking district, its mountain scenery popular with visitors. Celerina, Schlarigna in the local language, lies on the road from Samedan to St Moritz. The Church of Santa Maria at Pontresina contains murals in characteristically naïve style from the 13th and 15th centuries.
Music Kling, Glöckchen (Ring, little bell)
The 19th century German carol Kling, Glöckchen imagines Santa Claus outside in the cold, asking to be allowed into the warmth of the house. Here it has an air of baroque jubilation, interrupted by gentler episodes of contrapuntal interest and interwoven solo instrumental lines.
Nuremberg (Germany): Toy Museum
Nuremberg has long been an important centre in the toy industry of Germany. In the famous Toy Museum we see a miniature toy kitchen, an accurate model giving an interesting glimpse of an earlier age. A 19th century roundabout reminds us of the famous fairs of Nuremberg.
Music The First Nowell
The melody of The First Nowell, a traditional English carol, appears here first in a tender flute solo, taken up by the trumpet.
Zurich: Franz-Carl Weber’s
Franz-Carl Weber’s is one of the leading toy-shops in Zurich. It offers a fascinating display of dolls and other toys, over which a model of Father Christmas presides.
Music O du fröhliche (O thou joyful)
Based on a religious song sung in Italy, the German carol O du fröhliche, popularised in the 19th century, is allowed its measure of baroque contrapuntal interest.
Brussels (Belgium): Restaurant
Food is inevitably associated with Christmas. A busy season at a Brussels restaurant shows the preparation of seafood, oysters, paella and bouillabaisse, with a display of fish, fresh and crystalized fruit, and, this being Belgium, chocolates.
Music Jolly Old St Nicholas
Jolly Old St Nicholas is usually sung to a version of Pachelbel’s Canon, which is heard here in rapid outline, before hints of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons intrude.
Einsiedeln Monastery and Church
The Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln has an ancient history, an important centre of Catholic pilgrimage. The monastery church, as seen today, is largely baroque in form, built in the later 17th and earlier 18th centuries. Many of the magnificent frescoes that decorate the walls and ornate cupola of the church were the work of the Asam brothers, including an elaborate representation of the Nativity.
Music Adeste, fideles (O come, all ye faithful)
A plucked string accompaniment is provided for the solo treatment of the melody of the 18th century carol Adeste, fideles, in the manner of a Vivaldi slow movement.
The winter landscape of Switzerland, with its blanket of snow and towering fir-trees, provides an evocative Christmas scene.
Music O Tannenbaum (O Christmas tree)
Bach at his most jubilant introduces O Tannenbaum, a melody as familiar now in its political as in its Christmas context. Here it leads to a contrapuntal passage in lilting compound metre, as one instrument enters after another.
Zurich: Franz-Carl Weber’s
A fascinating Christmas window display has toy trains circling through a winter landscape, eagerly watched by children in the street outside.
Music Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas, its words by the 19th century English John Mason Neale, has a 13th century spring carol melody, here given lively treatment, before bringing the Christmas journey to an end.
Recording (all works):
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner [Naxos 8.550301]
Close the window