Thursday, December 27, 2018

A seasonal treat from Kujken and La Petite Bande

This release presents Christmas cantatas from three German Baroque masters: Dieterich Buxtehude, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Johann Sebastian Bach. All three wrote cantatas for each Sunday of the Liturgical calendar.

Buxtehude was of the generation before Telemann and Bach and was a model to the younger composers. His cantata Das neugeborne Kindelein opens the program. It's a short, joyous work that's actually a choral cantata. All four voices sing continually throughout.

His setting of In dulci Jubilo closes the album. While the overall shape of the melody is familiar, it's rhythms are somewhat different than the modern version.

Telemann's 1720 Missa sopra “Ein Kindelein so löbelich” uses the tune as a cantus firmus. Over this foundation, Telemann weaves four-part counterpoint that pays homage to Palestrina and other late-Renaissance masters.

His other cantata, O Jesu Christ, Dein Kripplein ist mein Paradie was written 18 years later. Here the form follows the then-standard alternation between solo aria and chorale.

That's also true of Bach's Ich freue mich in dir, which is at the center of the program. The difference is style. Telemann's late cantata is written in more of an Italian style, and has a lightness to it.

Bach's cantata, though only using four singers, seems weightier. The harmonies sound thicker, and of course, the counterpoint more complex.

La Petite Bande and Sigiswald Kuijken are past masters of this repertoire. They adjust their performances to match the composers' style, further highlighting the differences between the three.

If you're looking for a great example of German Baroque Christmas music, I strongly recommend "Das neugeborne Kindelein."

Das neugeborne Kindelein
Christmas Cantatas
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kujken, director
Accent ACC 24348

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Margaretha Consort Delivers Authentic 17th C. German Christmas

Marit Broekroelofs and the Margretha Consort present a fascinating program of seasonal music. There are plenty of early Baroque Christmas albums to choose from, in just about every flavor. What makes this recording stand out is the consistency of the artistic vision.

Broekroelofs has taken the seasonal repertoire of the early Protestant church and presents it as it was most likely performed. The program presents the members of the ensemble in a variety of combinations. The recording opens, for example, with an organ prelude by Franz Tundar. It then moves to Praetorius' "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" for strings, chamber choir, and organ. From there, a hymn for solo voice and ensemble, then one for choir, strings, and brass.

The music is as varied as the lineups. Familiar hymns such as the "In dulci jubilo" and "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" are here, taken back to their original 17th Century versions. There are also some unfamiliar gems, too. "Illibata ter beata" by Basque theologian Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza is one. The beautiful "Nobilissime Jesu" by Czech composer Alberich Mazak is another. Mazak wrote over 300 sacred works -- this is the first one I've heard.

The recording is excellent. This was music for the (Protestant) church, and a church is where the ensemble recorded. The decay adds resonance without overwhelming the sound. And for works using double choirs and echo ensembles, I could actually hear the spacial relationships between the performers.

I'll be adding this to my holiday rotation.

A German Christmas
17th Century Music for the Time of Advent and Christmas
Margaretha Consort; Marit Broekroelofs, director
Naxos 8.551398

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mutts 3-Panel Meta

Patrick McDonnell, the creator of Mutts, has played with comic strip conventions before. The week of December 3-8, 2018 he riffed on a core concept of the art.

Daily humor strips usually have three panels. The first sets up the premise. The middle establishes the pattern. The third upends the pattern with the punchline.

In the sequence below, note how each daily strip plays with a different aspect of this convention.

In the first strip, McDonnell brings to our attention that, while each panel may look identical, each represents a different moment in time. The characters move from the second to the third panel because time has passed.

In the second sequence, McDonnell further explores this concept. The background to all three panels is identical, each representing the same scene in a different moment. Mooch refuses to leave the first panel, so he's absent from the second. Earl does the same in the second, so the third panel is empty. The humor derives from characters willing themselves out of the sequence.

The third sequence further develops the concept. Here, Earl remains in all three panels. Mooch however, disappears from the sequence.

The fourth sequence presents another variant. First neither characters stayed in the timeline through all three panels. Then Earl stayed. Now both appear in the last panel. But Mooch still opted out of the timeline in the second panel. So where did he go?

Note the changes in the fifth sequence. Here the landscape spans all three panels. So each panel still represents a different moment, but now also a different location. McDonnell places Mooth and Earl's word balloon across panels one and two. And Earl isn't in the second panel -- he's calling from the third. Here, the humor plays on the function of that last panel.

The final sequence also plays on the role of the last panel. The bear (the punchline) arrives too soon.

For those interested in the art of sequential art, this week entertained on several levels.