No Comment — December 25, 2007, 7:30 am

Günther’s Christmas Ode

duerer-3-cherubs
Die Nacht ist hin, nun wird es Licht,
Da Jakobs Stern die Wolken bricht.
Ihr Völker, hebt die Häupter auf
Und merkt der goldnen Zeiten Lauf!

Du süßer Zweig aus Jesses Stamm,
Mein Heil, mein Fürst, mein Schatz, mein Lamm,
Ach, schau doch hier mit Freuden her,
Wie mein Herz die Wiege wär!

Ach komm doch liebster Seelenschatz!
Der Glaube macht dir reinen Platz,
Die Liebe steckt das Feuer an,
Das auch den Stall erleuchten kann.

Ihr Töchter Salems, küßt den Sohn!
Des Höchsten Liebe brennet schon.
Kommst, küßt das Kind! Es stillt den Zorn.
Ach, nun erhebt der Herr mein Horn!

Night is passed, dawn comes,
Jacob’s star breaks through the clouds.
Peoples, raise up your heads
And note the begin of the golden times!

You sweet branch of Jesse’s trunk,
My savior, my prince, my treasure, my lamb,
Look with joy
How my heart would be the cradle!

Oh come my dearest treasure!
For you my faith makes a pure place, and
My love ignites a flame,
Which will also fill the stable with light.

You daughters of Salem, kiss the son!
The love of the Highest is already burning.
Come, kiss the child! It will stem your anger.
Now the Lord raises my horn!

Johann Christian Günther, Weihnachtsode (1721) in: Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2, pp. 168-169 (1931)(S.H. transl.)


Listening Suggestion for Christmas Day:

I: Johann Sebastian Bach, The Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248. This is not one of Bach’s better known works–it lacks the drama and pathos of other works suitable for the Christmas season, especially the two passions. Bach cobbled this work together from a number of motets and cantatas, especially from the Advent cycle. But the composition works very effectively. And the second part, “Brich an du schönes Morgenlicht,” a chorale for choir and orchestra, composed in 1734, thematically tracks Günther’s poem very closely. Bach knew and admired Günther’s poetry, including this work.

II: Michael Praetorius, Christmette (A Christmas Mass, Lutheran rite)(1603-20). If you don’t know about the great polyphonic tradition before Bach, or think it was only some place south of the Alps, you should examine the Praetorius Christmas Mass assembled by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players on a Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv recording. The music is powerful, even transporting, and not widely heard. Praetorius is the towering figure of the period in which Reformation fades into Baroque, a man of great genius and humanity. He achieved fame across Europe not only for his sacred music, but also for his marvelous compilations of courtly dance tunes, and with his fame he also accumulated wealth that was almost unheard of for a composer of this era. When he died, in 1621, he bequeathed his entire fortune to a foundation for the relief of the poor and infirm. Praetorius wrote a series of treatises on the art of constructing and playing the organ, on composition and an almost forgotten treatise which relates music theory to theology, the Syntagma musicum. He also collected widely from the region. This recording is an attempt to reconstruct a Lutheran Christmas Mass in the form in which it would have been celebrated around 1610, drawing on compositions from Praetorius (but also Scheidt and Schütz) for the musical elements. The vocal music includes several of Praetorius’s most significant shorter works, including the hymn “Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her,” the sacred motet “Jesaja dem Propheten das geschah,” and the two communion motets “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” and “Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geborn.” The recessional is arguably the most important early Baroque work associated with the celebration of Christmas, “In dulci jubilo.” The mass runs eighty minutes. This music extends the bounds of time itself, and listening to it nourishes, inspires and moves anyone who truly listens forward on an important inward journey. Eighty minutes: but a glimmer in time.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Last month, the PEN America Center announced its intention to honor Charlie Hebdo with its Freedom of Expression Courage Award at a gala on May 5. Six members of the organization have withdrawn from the gala in protest. In "The Joke," Justin E. H. Smith addressed the Anglo-American left's response to the killings.
Photo of a Charlie Hebdo editorial meeting in 2006 by Jean-Francois/DEROUBAIX
Article
In Search of a Stolen Fiddle·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“To lose an instrument is to lose an essential piece of one’s identity. It brings its own solitary form of grief.”
Violin © Serge Picard/Agence VU
Post
Driving the San Joaquin Valley·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Othello’s Son·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery

Weeks after the peso collapsed that former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari joined the board of Dow Jones:

4

A Disney behavioral ecologist announced that elephants’ long-range low-frequency vocal rumblings draw elephant friends together and drive elephant enemies apart.

A robot known as Random Darknet Shopper that was confiscated by Swiss police for purchasing ten ecstasy pills online was cleared of charges.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today