Friday, December 15, 2017, Emmanuel Church, Boston
Sunday, December 17, 2017, First Unitarian Church, Worcester

Concerto Noël Allemand               Michel Corrette (1709-1795)
    Allegro • Adagio • Allegro   
Verbum caro factum est               Christian Geist (c. 1650-1711)

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern               Christian Geist

Ihr Völker, hört                Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)


O Jesu du mein Leben               Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725)

Pastorale G Major for organ and strings               Gregor Joseph Werner (1693-1766)

Der Stern aus Jakob bricht hervor               Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)

Jessica Petrus, soprano; Catherine Hedberg, alto; Jason Wang, tenor
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, organ

Program Notes

This program features cantatas, motets, arias, and instrumental works by Baroque composers in celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. Our concert opens with a work by French Baroque composer Michel Corrette based on a German chorale. Corrette was an important proponent of the concerto in France and wrote dozens of works in the genre for many instrumental combinations. Several of his instrumental works feature noël settings, often with melodies drawn from foreign sources. His Concerto Noël Allemand is based on the German chorale Lobt Gott Ihr Christen allzugleich, a hymn that was at the time often associated with the Epiphany season, and is cast as a series of inventive variations on the tune.

Christian Geist was a German organist and composer who was active in Denmark and Sweden. In 1684 he become organist of two of the principal churches in Copenhagen, remaining in that city until his death from the plague in 1711. Most of his Latin works were written while he was a musician at the court of Stockholm from 1670-1679 under the direction of Gustaf Düben. Fortunately, Düben’s manuscript collection survives to this day, and the two pieces by Geist heard on this program are preserved in that collection. Verbum caro factum est is a motet in the Italian style with instrumental parts alternating and interweaving with the vocal duet. The opening sinfonia was a later addition to the manuscript; it is in Düben’s hand and is likely by him. The aria Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern is written in the style of a chorale prelude, with lively, contrapuntal instrumental figuration contrasted by vocal statements of the chorale melody shining through in long notes.

Georg Phillip Telemann was an extremely prolific composer of both secular and sacred works, including over 1,000 church cantatas. His family had deep associations with the Lutheran Church—his father, maternal grandfather, and brother were all clergymen. His output for Epiphany includes a number of works in addition to the cantata included on this program. In the opening prelude of Ihr Völker, hört, the flute dramatically heralds the announcement of the birth of new Light in the world and appearance of the Star. Throughout the first aria, the running figuration in the flute writing—sometimes scampering, sometimes leaping—captures the joy and excitement of the holy event. In the recitative that follows, the flute is brought in midway to evoke the rustling of the masses as they bathe awestruck in the light of the Star. In the final aria, long, shimmering melismas in both the vocal and flute lines depict the Star’s far-reaching rays.

Johann Philipp Krieger was a very well-traveled composer. Born in Nuremberg, he studied or served courts in the cities of Copenhagen, Bayreuth, Venice, Vienna, Halle, and Weissenfels. Krieger’s cantata output features a great variety of voicings and instrumentations, and O Jesu du mein Leben is among his more intimate cantatas. Composed in Halle or Nuremberg in 1680, this expressive work is written in an Italianate, through-composed manner. His instrumental writing, including interjections from the strings and the variety of textural changes, colorfully contributes to conveying the text’s meaning.

Gregor Joseph Werner was an organist and composer who was serving as Kapellmeister of the Esterházy court when the young Joseph Haydn was hired in 1761. Although relations between the two were strained during that time, Haydn paid homage to the older composer in 1804 by arranging some of his fugues for string quartet. Though principally a composer of church music and oratorios, Werner also composed symphonies and trio sonatas in which representational effects are used. In Austria and central Europe, Christmas musical traditions were infused with rustic, folkloric styles, and in keeping with that interest, Werner wrote several rustic Pastorales for the Christmas season. The Pastorale on this program uses bariolage string crossings in the violins to imitate the hurdy-gurdy, while the obbligato organ part contains florid melodies accompanied by droning pedal points. 

Christoph Graupner was another prolific composer of cantatas. His early musical training included studies at the Thomasschule in Leipzig under Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. He later composed for and performed at the Hamburg opera and in 1712 become Kapellmeister at the court of Darmstadt. It was there that he wrote the majority of his works, encompassing more than 1,000 cantatas and hundreds of instrumental compositions. His cantata Der Stern aus Jakob bricht hervor was written for Epiphany in 1728 and is in all likelihood receiving its modern day premiere on our concerts. In contrast to Telemann’s exuberant marking of the event in “Ihr Völker, hört,” the Graupner cantata focuses more on the internal yearning for transformation and the possibility of salvation. It is primarily set in minor keys, but passes into the major when salvation appears in the text, most notably, very briefly in the alto aria and in the first section of the tenor aria. Graupner signifies the appearance of the Star by the rippling, ascending grace notes in the violin in the opening of the work, and his counterpoint in the strings in the chorales adds an unusual richness and complexity.

                                —Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf


Geist: Verbum caro factum est
Graupner: Aria from Der Stern aus Jacob