Before Bach—conductor’s note

If I had to pick three CDs to take with me to a desert island, with no prospect of ever being able to swap them with, for example, a passing fishing vessel, they would be all Bach: the St Matthew Passion, the Well-Tempered Clavier, and the St John Passion are the current pick. Given this, it might seem odd that my selection of repertoire for my last concert as the Oriana Chorale’s music director should focus on the period just before Bach.

The genius of J.S. Bach, and his far-reaching influence on practically all Western art music that followed him, can obscure the beauty of the repertoire that preceded him. In my time with Oriana, we have explored the music of pre-Bach Europe (Tallis, Byrd, and their contemporaries in “Songs of Sundrie Natures”; Victoria and Lobo in “Offertorium”), and indeed immersed ourselves in the extraordinary St John Passion (in a new translation by Australian tenor Christopher Steele)—but we haven’t yet performed the music of those who might be said to have had the most direct impact on JSB.

Our concert today centres on the work of Michael Praetorius, and offers a taste of some of the music that Bach would have been exposed to as a young musician. Some of the melodies in our program are likely to be familiar to you—“In Dulci Jubilo” and “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”, for example; possibly in arrangements by Bach. Others I hope will be new to you, and will give you a sense of the great richness of music in Germany leading up to the arrival of its greatest musical figure.

Repertoire

  1. Christum wir sollen loben schon
    chant, arr. Lucas Osiander (1534–1604)
  2. Resonet in Laudibus
    Jacob Handl (1550–1591)
  3. Padouana à5 [brass]
    Johann Schein (1586–1630)
  4. Ein kind geborn zu Bethlehem
    Michael Praetorius (1571–1621); from “Musae Sioniae” part V (1607), no. 86
  5. Quem pastores laudavere
    Michael Praetorius; from “Puericinium” (1621), no. 2
  6. Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geborn
    Michael Praetorius; from “Musae Sioniae” part VI (1609) no. 49
  7. In dulci jubilo
    Dieterich Buxtehude (1637–1707)
  8. Puer nobis nascitur / Uns ist g’born ein Kindelein
    Michael Praetorius; from “Musae Sioniae” part VI (1609) no. 44

interval

  1. Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
    Michael Praetorius; Cantus-firmus-Motette
  2. Resonet in laudibus
    Christian Erbach (c.1571–1635)
  3. In dulci jubilo à8
    Michael Praetorius; from “Musae Sioniae”
  4. Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (SWV 386)
    Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672) 
  5. Gagliarda à5 [brass]
    Johann Schein
  6. Vom Himmel hoch à8
    Michael Praetorius
  7. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
    Michael Praetorius
  8. Nun lob, mein Seel [organ]
    Michael Praetorius; second variation from “Zwei Variationen über ‘Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren’”
  9. Vom Himmel hoch
    Michael Praetorius; from “Musae Sioniae” part VI (1609), no. 26

Sinfonia

Barbara Jane Gilby Violin I & Leader
Hayley Bullock Violin II
Caroline Suthers Viola
Lindy Reksten Cello
Josh Holt Double bass
Christopher Johnstone Lute
Julie Watson Trumpet I
Zach Raffan Trumpet II
Toby Lewis Trumpet III
Andy Cassidy Trombone I
Michael Ingle Trombone II
David Mackay Harpsichord
James Huntingford Organ