Charles Wesley’s words to Hark! the herald angels sing
, later supplemented by others, first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems
in 1739. A Mendelssohn enthusiast, William Cummings (1831–1915) cast about for a suitable tune and settled on the second number in Mendelssohn’s Festgesang
(Festive Hymn), a work originally composed for male voices and brass in 1840 to mark a festival at Leipzig commemorating the invention of printing. The descant and alternative harmony in the last verse are by Philip Ledger.
from notes by Wadham Sutton © 1993