Krzysztof Herdzin Arrangements of Christmas Carols
Royal Castle in Warsaw
GABRIELA LEGUN – SOPRANO
ANDRZEJ LAMPERT – TENOR
Ancient Instruments Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera
Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense
The Angels came to the shepherds
(A. Vivaldi Four Seasons / Autumn, part I) Duet
God is born
(G.F. Händel Water Music / Suite in D major / Alla Hornpipe) Andrzej Lampert
Jesus is there
(H. Purcell Dido and Aeneas / Dido’s Lament) Gabriela Legun
When Christ has come to us
(J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, part I) Duet
Humble and quiet
(A. Vivaldi Four Seasons / Autumn, part II) Gabriela Legun
Oh, Sweet Little One, Little One
(W.A. Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major, part II) Andrzej Lampert
(J.S. Bach Aria on the G String) Duet
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
(A. Vivaldi Mandolin Concerto, part I) Gabriela Legun
(G.F. Händel Aria Lascia ch’io pianga) Andrzej Lampert
Hurrying to Bethlehem
(G.F. Händel Messiah / For unto us a child is born) Duet
On this day
(W.A. Mozart Serenade No.1 in D major / Menuetto) Andrzej Lampert
(M.A. Charpentier Te Deum / Preludium) Gabriela Legun
Polish Christmas carols and pastorals seem to me the most beautiful in the world. The United States is dominated by entertaining Christmas Songs, in other European countries there’s a Christmas tradition to perform folk Christmas songs as well as popular compositions: Adeste Fideles, Joy to The World, Deck The Halls, O Tannenbaum, or the most famous Silent Night, which was created in Austria. And yet, it is the Polish stories about the Holy Family, some lyrical and pensive, others solemn and full of pathos, and still others witty and humorous, that are a special national treasure of our culture and tradition, shining among other Christmas offerings from around the world. Wonderful harmonies, catchy melodies, lots of contrasts, including appearing side be side the highland music, polonaises, mazurkas, marches or lullabies – they are extremely grateful material for development for creative composers and arrangers.
Probably, there is not a single style of music that has not appeared among the arrangements of our carols and pastorals. For several decades, each year there are more and more original versions, showing these beautiful pieces in a completely new light. There are folk, jazz, rock, pop and reggae carols, wonderfully written for huge symphonic ensembles in the idiom of classical and even contemporary music (excellent, though very sophisticated and re-harmonized Christmas carols by Witold Lutosławski).
When preparing Christmas carols for the MACV orchestra, I set myself a goal that turned out to be a great challenge for me. Fascinating, inspiring and very satisfying. I decided to base each piece on a well-known and recognizable composition from the Baroque and Classicism periods. The Orchestra of Ancient Instruments’ special quality is that it feels comfortable in a specific convention. It is a lower tuning (430 Hz), different instruments, different articulation, different rhythms and a specific interpretation, in line with the canon from several hundred years ago. I spent hundreds of hours listening to the music of Purcell, Bach, Händel, Vivaldi and Mozart to find fragments of these brilliant compositions that “fit” with the harmony and rhythm of the carols I chose. Deciding to use the music of the greatest composers from history, I tried to naturally combine it with Christmas songs from a completely different world. Sometimes I relied on harmonic progression, other times on a characteristic melody or an unusual texture of the orchestra. As a result, I created 12 arrangements of Christmas carols, each of which becomes a variation on a composition from centuries ago. This allowed us to create a sound shape that is extremely natural for a baroque orchestra, allowing it to stay in its own world, and on the other hand surprising with stylistic elements completely unknown to those times, such as extended harmony, solutions typical of film music.
It is impossible not to mention the soloists who showed incredible imagination and vocal artistry, finding themselves in this completely new musical world, unprecedented in the Polish tradition of singing carols. Gabriela Legun and Andrzej Lampert gave these works a completely new dimension, creating new, surprising interpretations.
Giving you this unusual version of Christmas carols, I hope that you will find in them everything that is most beautiful in music. Real emotions and truth.