Angelus ad Pastores - Christmas Story

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In the Revelation of James, an apocryphal gospel that was not included in the Bible, events and details surrounding the birth of Christ are reported that do not appear in the better-known versions of the Christmas story from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In particular, the gospel of James presents us with very real people, full of emotions and conflicting feelings. Mary, not Jesus, is the focus of the narrative. The Christmas story is presented by James in a vivid, dramatic and almost theatrical manner. Howard Arman's Christmas Story follows the tradition of works such as Bach's "Christmas Oratorio", where newly-composed settings of the Gospel alternate with chorales. Here, Gregorian and polyphonic chorales as well as several motets from the 17th century are woven into Arman's composition and form a second narrative level. They frame the episodes of the Christmas story and can also be understood as musical reactions to the narrated events.

Arman contrasts the powerful language and mysticism of James’ gospel by reducing musical means to their essentials: monophonic singing, syllabically conceived solo passages and, as the only accompanying instrument, a hurdy-gurdy, which with its monotonous, archaic sound represents a certain timelessness. All of this results in maximum text comprehensibility, whereby the emotional declamatory singing style almost makes the figures resemble characters in a stage play. A key moment is Joseph's vision shortly before the birth of Christ: time seems to stand still, and the mystical and sublime aspect of this scene is intensified by poetic words full of linguistic contrasts and contradictions. – The chorales and motets integrated into Arman’s Christmas Story gradually develop ever greater polyphony. Thus, three settings by Nicolaus Zangius, Hieronymus Praetorius and Hans Leo Hassler, scored for ever greater numbers of voices, lead to a fourth, ten-part composition by Melchior Vulpius, which concludes with the words "Peace on earth".

This new CD from BR-KLASSIK presents Howard Arman's Christmas Story in a studio recording from Bavarian Radio's Studio 1 on December 10 and 11, 2022.
Catalogue number 900531
Barcode 4035719005318
Release date 06/10/2023
Label BR Klassik
Format CD
Number of discs 1
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