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Historia der Geburt Christi 'The Christmas story', SWV435

composer
1660; Evangelist's part only published in 1664; choruses and intermedia discovered in Uppsala University Library in 1908

 
A quasi-dramatic retelling of the nativity story, Schütz’s Historia der Geburt Christi (or Christmas story as it is sometimes called in English) was designed to be performed as part of the Vespers service in Dresden on Christmas Day. ‘The birth of Christ in recitative style’ was the court diarist’s laconic description in an entry dated 25 December 1660. Schütz’s use of Italian-style operatic recitative for the Evangelist’s narration marked a departure from the chant-like recitation that had characterized his Resurrection history of 1623. The composer took pains to highlight this avant-garde feature of the Christmas story; when the score was partially published in 1664, he boasted that he had introduced a ‘new manner of composition which, as far as is known, has never hitherto appeared in print in Germany’. The influence of Gabrieli and Monteverdi, both of whom Schütz met on a second trip to Italy in the late 1620s, can also be heard in the work’s Italianate vocal lines and occasional flights of operatic coloratura.

Structurally the Christmas story consists of eight tableaux, or ‘intermedia’, for solo voices and/or chorus with instrumental accompaniment, alternating with sparser continuo recitatives for the tenor Evangelist. Elector Johann Georg II, who commissioned the work, maintained a chapel of some fifty singers and instrumentalists, and Schütz deployed it to full advantage: his score calls for no fewer than twelve voices and a large orchestra of strings (modern violins and violas, as well as members of the older-fashioned viol family), recorders, trumpets, trombones, bassoon (or dulcian) and organ. In keeping with traditional associations, the shepherds are accompanied by ‘pastoral’ recorders, the angel by ethereal violettas (treble viols), King Herod by ‘regal’ trumpets (or cornetts), and the high priests by mellow trombones (or sackbuts). The popular appeal of the Christmas story is enhanced by such artful effects as the repeating two-note bass figure in the angel’s three intermedia, which according to Schütz depicts the ‘rocking of the Christ child’s cradle’.

from notes by Harry Haskell © 2019

Recordings

Schütz: The Christmas story & other works
CDA68315 29 November 2019 Release
Schütz: The Christmas story; Gabrieli (G): Christmas Motets
CDH55310Archive Service
Christmas through the ages
NOEL1Super-budget price sampler — Download only

Details

No 01. Exordium: Die Geburt unsers Herren
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 7 on CDA68315 [1'31] 29 November 2019 Release
No 01. Introduction: Die Geburt unsers Herren
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 1 on CDH55310 [1'30] Archive Service
No 02. Rezitativ: Es begab sich aber zu derselbigen Zeit (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 8 on CDA68315 [3'21] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 2 on CDH55310 [3'09] Archive Service
No 03. Intermedium I: Der Engel zu den Hirten auf dem Felde  Fürchtet euch nicht
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 9 on CDA68315 [3'05] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 3 on CDH55310 [2'51] Archive Service
No 04. Rezitativ: Und alsbald war da bei dem Engel die Menge der himmlischen Heerscharen (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 10 on CDA68315 [0'18] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 4 on CDH55310 [0'17] Archive Service
No 05. Intermedium II: Die Menge der Engel  Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 11 on CDA68315 [1'57] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 5 on CDH55310 [1'57] Archive Service
No 06. Rezitativ: Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 12 on CDA68315 [0'16] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 6 on CDH55310 [0'19] Archive Service
No 07. Intermedium III: Die Hirten auf dem Felde  Lasset uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 13 on CDA68315 [1'35] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 7 on CDH55310 [1'25] Archive Service
Track 2 on NOEL1 [1'25] Super-budget price sampler — Download only
No 08. Rezitativ: Und sie kamen eilend und funden beide (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 14 on CDA68315 [3'10] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 8 on CDH55310 [2'48] Archive Service
No 09. Intermedium IV: Die Weisen aus Morgenlande  Wo ist der neugeborne König der Juden?
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 15 on CDA68315 [2'01] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 9 on CDH55310 [1'54] Archive Service
No 10. Rezitativ: Da das der König Herodes hörete (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 16 on CDA68315 [0'41] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 10 on CDH55310 [0'41] Archive Service
No 11. Intermedium V: Die Hohenpriester und Schriftgelehrten  Zu Bethlehem im jüdischen Lande
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 17 on CDA68315 [2'36] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 11 on CDH55310 [2'34] Archive Service
No 12. Rezitativ: Da berief Herodes die Weisen heimlich (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 18 on CDA68315 [0'35] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 12 on CDH55310 [0'30] Archive Service
No 13. Intermedium VI: Herodes  Ziehet hin und forschet fleißig
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 19 on CDA68315 [1'52] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 13 on CDH55310 [1'52] Archive Service
No 14. Rezitativ: Als sie nun den König gehöret hatten (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 20 on CDA68315 [2'43] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 14 on CDH55310 [2'22] Archive Service
No 15. Intermedium VII: Der Engel zu Joseph  Stehe auf, Joseph
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 21 on CDA68315 [1'58] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 15 on CDH55310 [1'32] Archive Service
No 16. Rezitativ: Und er stund auf und nahm das Kindlein (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 22 on CDA68315 [3'39] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 16 on CDH55310 [3'30] Archive Service
No 17. Intermedium VIII: Der Engel zu Joseph in Ägypten  Stehe auf, Joseph
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 23 on CDA68315 [1'55] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 17 on CDH55310 [1'34] Archive Service
No 18. Rezitativ: Und er stund auf und nahm das Kindlein (Evangelist)
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 24 on CDA68315 [1'58] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 18 on CDH55310 [2'07] Archive Service
No 19. Beschluß: Dank sagen wir alle Gott
author of text
Luke 2: 1-21; Matthew 2: 1-23; Luke 2: 40

Track 25 on CDA68315 [2'08] 29 November 2019 Release
Track 19 on CDH55310 [2'17] Archive Service

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