Händel is everywhere. At least in the German town of Halle/Saale, just like Mozart in Salzburg. I lived for many years in Halle, and for a long time, I kept my distance to that Baroque composer. Being constantly exposed to his “Feuerwerksmusik” (Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351) and his “Wassermusik” (Water Music, HWV 348–350), I ended up hating his music.
On Christmas Eve, I will honor a convinced agnostic: Camille de Saint-Saëns. The French composer’s life is marked by an interesting paradox. He preferred reason to faith, and still, for most of his career, he worked as an organist at the church La Madeleine in Paris. As such, he composed in 1858 a wonderful Christmas cantata in nine movements, the “Oratorio de Noël” Op. 12. It was performed for first time on December 25 of the same year in La Madeleine and dedicated to his pupil, the Viscountess de Grandval. Saint-Saëns had intensively studied the choral music of Bach, Händel and Mozart and makes an explicit reference to Bach in the “Prélude”. He had already composed a mass, his Op. 4, at that time.
Buxtehude – now, what kind of name is that? It sounds like the name of a witch out of a German fairy tale. But no, Dieterich Buxtehude was a Danish-German composer and organist of the 17th century.
“There is no other God than Bach and Mendelssohn is his prophet!” exclaimed the French composer Hector Berlioz after Felix Mendelssohn had performed in 1841 in the German town of Leipzig the St. Matthew’s Passion, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and first performed in that very same town in 1727. Felix Mendelssohn has done much to resuscitate Bach’s works. He established himself as a composer and conductor in 1829 when he had the St. Matthew’s Passion performed for the first time in Germany after almost 100 years. He was 20 years old then, and the concert was one of the top musical events in Berlin that year. But today’s post is not about Mendelssohn, it’s about Bach! Continue reading!