Pretorius: Christmas Mass
For the greatest joy of the faithful, here is a festive Christmas Mass performed as it could have been in a large Lutheran church of North Germany towards 1620.
Michael Pretorius, active from 1590 to 1621, was the most prolific composer of his generation. At the beginning of the 17th century, he created exceptional music that established itself everywhere in North Germany, because of its great modernity and of its melodies inspired by Italian models. His music for this Christmas morning mass is based on the Lutheran tradition, where the faithful take active part in the musical ceremony, notably for the grand chorales coming directly from Luther’s corpus. The music is ingeniously designed to enable children and amateur choirs to take part in the score to create an extraordinary musical communion.
With alternating monumental and spectacular parts and Italian style arias for soloists, Pretorius set the Latin or German texts within a rich instrumental score. He also recommended placing the musicians in space as well as possible, to make the faithful (and the audience) feel they are at the heart of this dazzling liturgy, often carried away by dance rhythms of which Pretorius had composed dozens.
Thanks to a commission for Versailles, Paul McCreesh goes back to this Christmesse, which he reconstructed in 1994 with the valiant Gabrieli Consort and Players (a legendary recording!) and enlists the CMBV Pages to make this a festive and popular event and a dazzling fresco.
Michael Pretorius (1571-1621)