About this Recording
2.110254 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - A CHRISTMAS MUSICAL TOUR: Austria / Switzerland / Germany (NTSC)

A Christmas Musical Tour of Austria, Switzerland and Germany
With music by J.S. Bach and Handel



Austria: Vienna – Christkindl Market
The Vienna Christkindlmarkt is held annually in front of the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus. The market has Christmas decorations, toys, sweets and displays of Christmas cribs, with figures of the Blessed Virgin and Christ Child.

Music Handel: Organ Concerto in F major, Op. 4, No. 5 – Presto
Handel’s early career was in his native Germany, but after a short period in Italy, where he absorbed further the Italian style, he settled in London, at first principally as a composer of Italian opera. It was during the 1730s that he began to explore and develop a new form, the English oratorio. At public performances of these works he would further entertain fashionable audiences with organ concertos, displaying his own very considerable proficiency as an organist. Only one set of these compositions was published in his lifetime, the six that make up Op. 4, performed in London in 1735 and 1736. The Organ Concerto in F major, Op. 4, No. 5, was heard on 26th March 1735 at Covent Garden with a revised version of the oratorio Deborah. The concerto ends with a final gigue-like Presto.

Recording: Johann Aratore, Handel Festival Orchestra conducted by John Tinge, from Naxos 8.571032.


Austria: Silent Night Chapel, Oberndorf
The carol Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Silent night, holy night) was first sung at Oberndorf an der Salzach in 1818. The original church was destroyed in 1899 and has been replaced by the present Stille-Nacht-Kapelle. The building contains a characteristic representation of the Holy Family and of the authors of the words and music of the carol.

Music Franz Xaver Gruber: Stille Nacht
The words of the carol Stille Nacht are by Josef Mohr, assistant priest at the church of St Nicholas in Oberndorf, and the music by the organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. The original work was sung, probably at midnight Mass, accompanied by a guitar, as the organ had broken down. It was later given publicity through a visiting organ-builder, to become one of the most popular Christmas songs.

Recording: German Boys’ Choir conducted by Alfred Walter, from Naxos 8.550188.


Austria: St Nicholas and Krampusse, Steyr
Christmas celebrations at Steyr, in Upper Austria, include the furry devils, the Krampusse, and finally St Nicholas (Santa Claus) with presents for children.

Music J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 – Badinerie
The second of Johann Sebastian Bach’s four Orchestral Suites was written during the final period of his life, in Leipzig. The suite ends with a light-hearted Badinerie, perhaps intended for the French flautist Buffardin, who was employed at the time at the court in Dresden.

Recording: Capella Istropolitana conducted by Jaroslav Křeček, from Naxos 8.571114.


Switzerland: Kreuzweg in Einsiedeln – Snow and Ice
Snow and ice give the landscape an aura of magic, transforming trees and the winter foliage that survives.

Music J.S. Bach (arr. Richard Hayman) – Ave Maria
The 19th-century French composer Charles Gounod added a religious melody, setting the words of the Ave Maria, to Bach’s keyboard Prelude No. 1 in C major from the first book of his The Well-Tempered Clavier. It is here arranged for a solo violin.

Recording: Members of the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hayman, from Naxos 8.990006.


Austria: Christmas Shopping in Vienna
Vienna is decorated with Christmas lights and shops and stalls sell articles associated with Christmas: dolls, models of Santa Claus, and vividly carved Christmas cribs. The lights are set against the silhouette of the great cathedral.

Music J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 140 – Wachet auf
The majority of Bach’s many cantatas were written to fulfil his obligations as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, a position he assumed in 1723, bringing responsibility for the music of the principal churches of Leipzig, with a constant supply of cantatas for the entire church year. Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, the cry comes to us) was first heard in late November 1731. The opening movement is here performed instrumentally, with the chorale melody entrusted to the horn.

Recording: Capella Istropolitana conducted by Richard Edlinger, from Naxos 8.556656.


Austria: Vienna – St Peter’s Church
The present Church of St Peter in Vienna, built on the site of earlier churches, dates from the early 18th century and takes St Peter’s in Rome as its model. Designed by Gabriele Montani, it was continued by Lukas von Hildebrandt and completed in 1733. Outside there is a relief showing Charlemagne, in whose reign the original church was founded. The elaborately ornamented Baroque interior includes frescoes round the dome by Johann Michael Rottmayr showing the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The carved pulpit by Matthias Steinl dates from 1716.

Music Handel: Messiah – Sinfonia
The most famous of Handel’s oratorios and the most unusual was Messiah, written with his usual speed in 1741 for performance first in Dublin, where it was heard in April 1742. The first London performance was in 1743 at Covent Garden, although some doubted the suitability of the subject for a theatre. Its lasting success was assured only in 1750, when it was performed in London in aid of the Foundling Hospital established ten years earlier by Captain Thomas Coram. At his death Handel bequeathed the fair copy of the score and parts to the Hospital, which continued to benefit from annual performances of the work. Messiah opens with a French Overture, a Sinfonia, its stately introduction followed by a fugal section.

Recording: The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, from Naxos 8.553258.


Switzerland: Sihlsee
The snow-covered landscape presents a characteristic sight, with village houses dimly seen in silhouette through the mists of winter.

Music Handel: Messiah – Air: Ev’ry valley shall be exalted
The first accompanied recitative of Messiah is followed by a tenor air: ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain.’

Recording: Robin Doveton, The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, from Naxos 8.553258.


Switzerland: Monastery Church, Einsiedeln
The great Benedictine monastery at Einsiedeln was founded in the 10th century, after the hermit St Meinrad had settled there in the previous century, bringing his black Madonna, which retains its place in the devotions of pilgrims. The monastery received a papal blessing as a pilgrimage centre in 964. The buildings underwent various changes, with destructions by fire and the depredations of enemies. The present structure was built largely in the Baroque period, notably in the 18th century. The figure of the black Madonna dates from the 15th century, after the destruction by fire of an earlier image. The black marble Lady Chapel was rebuilt in 1801, after the destruction of the earlier chapel by the French. The ceiling frescoes are by the Bavarian Cosmas Damian Asam and the pink rococo lower choir, dating from 1746, is the work of the Augsburg architect, painter and artist in stucco, Franz Kraus.

Music Handel: Messiah – Air: He shall feed his flock
There is a pastoral mood to the air He shall feed his flock, a setting of words from the prophet Isaiah followed by verses from the Gospel of St Matthew:

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, and he shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Come unto him all ye that labour, come unto him that are heavy laden, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him, for he is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Recording: Helen Parker, The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, from Naxos 8.553258.


Germany: Bavaria – Collegiate Church, Ottobeuren
The Benedictine abbey at Ottobeuren was founded in the 8th century. The present buildings date from the 18th century, the work of the South German architect Johann Michael Fischer. The ornate interior has frescoes by Franz Anton Zeiller, including scenes celebrating a thousand years of the monastery’s existence and of the condemnation St Alexander, his mother St Felicitas and his brothers. There are characteristically Baroque statues of various saints and of the Archangel Michael, putti by J. J. Christian and an elaborately ornamented tabernacle with scenes of Emmaeus, surmounted by a figure of Christ.

Music Handel: Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus
The second of the three parts of Handel’s Messiah, dealing with the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, ends with the famous Hallelujah Chorus: Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Hallelujah! The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever! King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Recording: The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, from Naxos 8.553258.


Austria: Salzburg and Hallein, Landscapes
The roofs and domes of Salzburg are seen in the snow, the city dominated by the stronghold built on the Mönchsberg. Hallein is the second largest town in the province of Salzburg, but we see here the winter scenery of the surrounding landscape.

Music Handel: Organ Concerto in F major, Op. 4, No. 4 – Adagio–Allegro
The fourth of Handel’s published organ concertos ends with an Adagio, a movement chiefly for the organ, followed by a vigorous fugal Allegro.

Recording: Johann Aratore, Handel Festival Orchestra conducted by John Tinge, from Naxos 8.571032.


Austria: Christmas Market, Salzburg • Advent Calendar, Steinbach
Like other Christmas markets, Salzburg offers a display of seasonal wares, sacred and secular, and not, inevitably, without a glimpse at least of Mozart. The village square at Steinbach has its own Advent Calendar, with the days of Advent displayed in the illuminated house windows round the square.

Music J. S Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Aria: Bereite dich, Zion
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is in fact a group of six seasonal cantatas, the first of which was performed in Leipzig at the Nikolaikirche at Christmas 1734, with a second performance in the afternoon at the Tomaskirche. The first alto aria, Bereite dich, is accompanied by violin and oboe d’amore and is taken from an earlier secular work:

Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben
den Schönsten, den Liebstenbald bei dir zu sehen.
Deine Wangen müssen heut’ viel schöner prangen,
eile den Brautigam sehnlichst zu lieben.

(Make ready, Zion, with tenderness
to see soon with you the fairest, the dearest.
Your cheeks must today take on a fairer colour,
hurry eagerly to love the bridegroom.)

Recording: Judith Nemeth (alto), Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428–30.


Austria: Weissensee
The Carinthian lake, the Weissensee, and its surroundings are seen through the winter mist.

Music J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Sinfonia
The second cantata of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio opens with a Sinfonia, a pastoral movement depicting the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes d’amore and oboes da caccia with strings and organ continuo.

Recording: Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428–30.


Austria: Oriental Christmas Crib, Steyr
The Steyr Christmas crib shows the shepherds in the fields, and the appearance of the angels, proclaiming Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Music J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Recitative: Und es waren Hirten
The Sinfonia that opens the second cantata is followed by a tenor recitative:

Und es waren Hirten in der selben Gegend auf dem Felde bei den Hürden, die hüteten des Nachts ihre Herde. Und siehe, des Herren Engel trat zu ihnen, und dei Klarheit des Herren leuchtet um sie, und sie fürchten sich sehr.

(And there were shepherds in the fields in the same region, guarding their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.)

Recording: Jozsef Mukk (tenor), Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428-30.


Austria: Vienna – Francesco Bassara: Adoration of the Magi
The Italian painter Francesco Bassara’s Adoration of the Magi offers a vivid and characteristic representation of the Biblical scene.

Music J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Chorale: Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht

Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht,
und laß den Himmel tagen!
Du Hirtenvolk, erschrecke nicht,
weil dir die Engel sagen:
daß dieses schwache Knäbelein
soll unser Trost und Freude sein, 
dazu den Satan zwingen
und letzlich Frieden bringen.

(Break forth, fair light of morning,
and let the heaven become day!
Shepherd people, do not fear
for the angels tell you
that this feeble little boy
shall be our comfort and joy,
conquering Satan
and in the end bringing peace.)

Recording: Hungarian Radio Choir, Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428–30.


Austria: Christmas Crib, Linz Cathedral
Linz became the seat of a bishop under the reforms of the Emperor Joseph II, when the Jesuit church became the cathedral, to be superseded in the 19th century by a larger new building. The cathedral has a vividly carved representation of the Nativity.

Music J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Chorale: Seid froh, dieweil
The third part of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio ends with the chorale Seid froh dieweil:

Seid froh dieweil, daß euer Heil ist hie
ein Gott und auch ein Mensch geboren,
derwelcher ist der Herr und Christ
in Davids Stadt, von vieler auserkoren. 

(Be glad for your Saviour is born
here a God and also a Man,
who is the Lord and Christ
in David’s city, from many chosen.)

Recording: Hungarian Radio Choir, Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428–30.


Austria: Christmas Crib, Linz Cathedral
The vivid Christmas scene from Linz Cathedral is seen in further detail.

Music J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio – Chorus: Herrscher des Himmels
Scored for three trumpets and timpani, two flutes, two oboes, strings and organ continuo, the third part of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio starts with a joyful chorus: Herscher des himmels, erhöre das Lallen:

Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen
laß dir die matten Gesänge gefallen,
wenn dich dein Zion mit Psalmen erhöht!
Höre der Herzen frohlokkendes Preisen,
wenn wir dir itzo die Ehrfucht erweisen,
weil unsre Wohlfahrt befestiget steht!

(Lord of Heaven, hear our faltering speech,
let our feeble songs please you,
since your Zion exalts you with psalms.
Hear our hearts’ joyful praises,
since now we pay homage to you,
for our well-being is now assured.)

Recording: Hungarian Radio Choir, Failoni Chamber Orchestra, Géza Oberfrank, from Naxos 8.550428–30.


Switzerland: Cupola of the Monastery Church, Einsiedeln
The elaborate Christmas fresco that adorns the dome of the monastic church at Einsiedeln is the work of the Bavarian Cosmas Damian Asam.

Music J.S. Bach: Das Orgelbüchlein – Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich, BWV 609
Bach’s Little Organ Book includes organ chorale preludes for the church year, written during his earlier years at Weimar and, in part, during the subsequent period that he spent in Cöthen, before moving in 1723 to Leipzig. The Christmas chorale prelude Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich (Praise God, you Christians, all together) presents the melody in the upper part, against an initially descending bass.

Recording: Wolfgang Rübsam, from Naxos 8.553031.

Keith Anderson

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