For those seeking “off-the-beaten-track” holiday music, the Immanuel Church in Wilmington’s Highlands neighborhood was the place to be on Sunday, December 17, as Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, presented Es Ist Ein Ros, a German Renaissance Christmas.
Piffaro’s Christmas program this season followed Welcome the People, the ensemble’s homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and featured a host of beloved carols that serve as an integral part of Protestant worship to this day.
If there’s one thing that emerged from this concert, it’s that Martin Luther loved Christmas and he loved music. While the Reformation was wringing out the ritual excesses of the late medieval church, Luther was working to integrate the simple unison plainsong and complex polyphony of the Catholic Church into his new Protestant liturgy. Luther also brought significant change by giving the congregation an active, musical role in church services through the singing of vernacular psalms, hymns and carols.
The beautifully curated program featured the refined Christmas music of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) as well as compositions by Luther himself, including Veni, Redemptor gentium and Von Himmel hoch, which he wrote for his family’s Christmas Eve devotions.
The concert also included works by among others, Johann Rosenmuller, Johann Walter, Johann Eccard, Hans Leo Hassler, Christoph Bernhard, Leon Paminger and Adam Gumpelzhaimer, all grappling with different ways of incorporating Italian musical forms into a Protestant liturgical design.
There was sheer pleasure in the graceful melodies and interesting harmonies. The alternation of Latin and German texts and sophisticated and common musical forms engaged listeners on a variety of levels.
The performance was everything you would expect from the musicians of one of the world’s greatest interpreters of Renaissance music. Intonation was flawless, the blend superb and the phrasing eminently convincing.
Guest soloist Jessica Beebe contributed a soprano that was tonally pure throughout its range, applying it with the assurance of an artist fully cognizant of the demands of the music.
This post appears courtesy of Delaware Arts INfo Blog.