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 $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2015

The Joke

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abolish High School

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beat Reporter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Going It Alone

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rotten Ice

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Life After Guantánamo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
Photograph by the author
Article
Rotten Ice·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“When I asked if we were going to die, he smiled and said, ‘Imaqa.’ Maybe.”
Photograph © Kari Medig
Article
Life After Guantánamo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’ve seen the hell and I’m still in the beginning of my life.”
Illustration by Caroline Gamon
Article
Going It Alone·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The call to solitude is universal. It requires no cloister walls and no administrative bureaucracy, only the commitment to sit down and still ourselves to our particular aloneness.”
Photograph by Richard Misrach
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida:

240

Florida’s wildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.

A 64-year-old mother and her 44-year-old son were arrested for running a gang that stole more than $100,000 worth of toothbrushes from Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS stores in Florida.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today