Listening Guide: A Baroque Christmas

*Fum, Fum, Fum – Catalonia (16th or 17th c.)

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“Main Gläubiges Herze” from Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, BWV 68 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), arr. David Matthew Brown
text by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler

Most famously set to music by Franz Schubert, Erlkönig is a terrifying tale of a boy, haunted by the demon Erlking (Elf King), imperceptible to the boy’s father, with whom he furiously rides on horseback. Set in 5/8, this version mimics the hoof beats of the horse in the deep bass of the piano left hand part, as the tale unfolds above. Listen for:

•Kaitlyn’s representation of four different characters: the narrator, boy, father, and Erlking

•Dramatic changes in musical affect as different characters speak: Boy/Terror – Father/Confidence – Erlking/Seduction

•The point when the Erlking gives up on the facade as the music sinks into darkness

•The boy’s final lines, as he has been “taken” by the Erlking

•A violin cadenza, representing the father’s realization of his son’s predicament

•Blurred lines between the Narrator and the Erlking at the end: “war tot” (“was dead”) is sung joyously

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from German

Narrator: Who rides so late through night and wind?
It is a father with his child;
He holds the boy securely in his arm,
He grasps him safely, he keeps him warm.
Father: “My son, why do you hide your face in fear?”
Son: “Do you not see the Erlking, Father?
The Erlking with crown and tail?”
Father: “My son, it is a wisp of fog.”
Erlking: “You lovely child, come, go with me!
What wonderful games I’ll play with you,
Many colorful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has many golden garments.”
Son: “My father, my father, do you not hear,
What Erlking has softly promised to me?”
Father: “Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind is only rustling through dry leaves.”
Erlking: “Fine boy, will you go with me?
My beautiful daughters shall wait upon you;
My daughters lead the nightly dance,
And will rock and dance and sing you to sleep.”
Son: “My father, my father, do you not see,
The Erlking’s daughters there in that gloomy place?”
Father: My son, my son, I see it clearly: it is only the shining of the old gray willow.”
Erlking: I love you, your beautiful form charms me;
And since you are not willing, I will use force.”
Son: My father, my father,
Now he grasps me!
Erlking has hurt me!
Narrator: The father shudders; he rides swiftly,
He has the moaning child in his arms,
He reaches the courtyard with toil and in distress;
In his arms, the child was dead.

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*The Coventry Carol – England (16th c.)

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Selections from  The Messiah – George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)
text compiled by Charles Jennens, from the King James Bible

I: But who may abide the day of His coming

The witch Ulrica – a fortune teller – performs an incantation to summon the “King of the Abyss.” Listen for:

•Chromatic (half-stepwise) melodic figures build a sense of mysterious drama

•Slithering triplet figures in the primary voice melody

•The curious use of major key at the end to signify the conclusion and effectiveness of the incantation

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Italian

King of the Abyss, make haste,
Plunge down through the skies,
Without soaring, the lightning
Penetrates my roof.
Now three times, the hoopoe
Breathed on high;
The fire breathing salamander
Hissed three times…
And the groaning of the tombs
Spoke to me three times.
It’s him, it’s him! Now I feel
The palpitations again.
The pleasure to burn again
In his awful embrace!
The light of the future
He holds in his left hand.
He was pleased with my spell
He blazes once again:
Nothing, nothing more will be hidden
From my gaze!
Silence, silence!

II: Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened

The witch Ulrica – a fortune teller – performs an incantation to summon the “King of the Abyss.” Listen for:

•Chromatic (half-stepwise) melodic figures build a sense of mysterious drama

•Slithering triplet figures in the primary voice melody

•The curious use of major key at the end to signify the conclusion and effectiveness of the incantation

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Italian

King of the Abyss, make haste,
Plunge down through the skies,
Without soaring, the lightning
Penetrates my roof.
Now three times, the hoopoe
Breathed on high;
The fire breathing salamander
Hissed three times…
And the groaning of the tombs
Spoke to me three times.
It’s him, it’s him! Now I feel
The palpitations again.
The pleasure to burn again
In his awful embrace!
The light of the future
He holds in his left hand.
He was pleased with my spell
He blazes once again:
Nothing, nothing more will be hidden
From my gaze!
Silence, silence!

III: He shall feed His flock

The witch Ulrica – a fortune teller – performs an incantation to summon the “King of the Abyss.” Listen for:

•Chromatic (half-stepwise) melodic figures build a sense of mysterious drama

•Slithering triplet figures in the primary voice melody

•The curious use of major key at the end to signify the conclusion and effectiveness of the incantation

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Italian

King of the Abyss, make haste,
Plunge down through the skies,
Without soaring, the lightning
Penetrates my roof.
Now three times, the hoopoe
Breathed on high;
The fire breathing salamander
Hissed three times…
And the groaning of the tombs
Spoke to me three times.
It’s him, it’s him! Now I feel
The palpitations again.
The pleasure to burn again
In his awful embrace!
The light of the future
He holds in his left hand.
He was pleased with my spell
He blazes once again:
Nothing, nothing more will be hidden
From my gaze!
Silence, silence!

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*O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) – England or Portugal (17th or 18th c.)

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*The Huron Carol – Canada (17th c.)

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Violin Concert No. 4 “Winter” in F minor, RV 297 – Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

I: Allegro non molto

In one of Verdi’s more popular mezzo arias, Azucena, the daughter of an accused witch gruesomely describes the execution by fire of her mother. Listen for:

•Chromatically rising chords representing the flames reaching for the sky

•The piano interlude melody that recurs, originally played by an oboe

•Cognitive dissonance in a lively melody – for the cheering crowd – versus the dark tonality of the execution

II: Largo

In one of Verdi’s more popular mezzo arias, Azucena, the daughter of an accused witch gruesomely describes the execution by fire of her mother. Listen for:

•Chromatically rising chords representing the flames reaching for the sky

•The piano interlude melody that recurs, originally played by an oboe

•Cognitive dissonance in a lively melody – for the cheering crowd – versus the dark tonality of the execution

III: Allegro

In one of Verdi’s more popular mezzo arias, Azucena, the daughter of an accused witch gruesomely describes the execution by fire of her mother. Listen for:

•Chromatically rising chords representing the flames reaching for the sky

•The piano interlude melody that recurs, originally played by an oboe

•Cognitive dissonance in a lively melody – for the cheering crowd – versus the dark tonality of the execution

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*Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella – France (17th c.)

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Selections from Weinachts-Oratorium, BWV 248 – Johann Sebastian Bach
text by anonymous author(s), possibly including Christian Friedrich Henrici

I: Schließe, mein Herze

Candela, the story’s protagonist, sings an impassioned aria about her conflicted love for her deceased husband, who continues to haunt her. Listen for:

•A dense piano ostinato, with ornaments representing the English horn

•Heavy Spanish nationalist influence, characteristic of Falla’s middle-period works

•A heavily ornamented vocal line that generally remains in the lower register – characteristic of the “cantaora” style

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Spanish

Ay! I don’t know what I feel,
I don’t know what happens to me
When this accursed gypsy’s away.
Only Hell’s fire burns hotter
Than all my blood burning with jealousy!
Ay! When there are rumors,
what could they mean? Ay!
For the love of another, he forgets me! Ay!
When the fire burns,
When there are rumors …
If they cannot kill the fire,
Suffering condemns me!
Love poisons me!
Sorrow kills me!
Ay! Ay!

II: Schlafe, mein Liebster

The specter restrains Candela – curses her – from pursuing her love for Carmelo, a handsome villager. Listen for:

•Sparse piano accompaniment, representing string pizzicato

•A legato piano interlude, ornamented with grace notes, meant to sound like the strumming of a guitar

•Stark color changes in the voice – sorrowful to spiteful

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Spanish

Like the will-o’-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
Like the will-o’-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
You run from it, and it follows you,
You call it, and it runs away.
Like the will-o’-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
Accursed the dark eyes
That succeeded in seeing him!
Accursed the dark eyes
That succeeded in seeing him!
Accursed the saddened heart
That wanted to burn in his flame!
Like the will-o’-the-wisp
Love vanishes the same.

III: Nun wird mein liebster Bräutigam

Candela stands up to the specter, who she learns was unfaithful to her in life. Now, she has a plan. Lucía – the gypsy who cheated with and murdered Candela’s husband has been lured to the nightly dance. The specter abducts her. Listen for:

•Extended piano passagework, synthesizing a beautiful melody (enticement) with an unsettling accompaniment

•Rapidly changing characters – tempo and key – portraying Candela’s dynamic words

•As Candela’s confidence grows – and her words become harsher – her melody becomes more ornate

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Spanish

You are the evil gypsy
That a gypsy girl loved;
The love that she gave you,
You did not deserve!
Who could have thought
That with another you would betray her!
I’m the voice of your destiny!
I’m the fire in which you burn!
I’m the wind in which you sigh!
I’m the sea in which you are shipwrecked!
I’m the sea in which you are shipwrecked!

IV: Bereite dich, Zion

Candela stands up to the specter, who she learns was unfaithful to her in life. Now, she has a plan. Lucía – the gypsy who cheated with and murdered Candela’s husband has been lured to the nightly dance. The specter abducts her. Listen for:

•Extended piano passagework, synthesizing a beautiful melody (enticement) with an unsettling accompaniment

•Rapidly changing characters – tempo and key – portraying Candela’s dynamic words

•As Candela’s confidence grows – and her words become harsher – her melody becomes more ornate

ENGLISH TRANSLATION from Spanish

You are the evil gypsy
That a gypsy girl loved;
The love that she gave you,
You did not deserve!
Who could have thought
That with another you would betray her!
I’m the voice of your destiny!
I’m the fire in which you burn!
I’m the wind in which you sigh!
I’m the sea in which you are shipwrecked!
I’m the sea in which you are shipwrecked!

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*Joy to the World – England (18th c.)

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