Christmas with Michael Praetorius

Tenet Vocal Artists, the New York-based vocal and period-instruments ensemble, marks the double anniversary – 450th of birth, 400th of death – of the 17th-century German composer Michael Praetorius in a video recorded at a concert on Dec. 11 (accessible through March 14, 2022):

Praetorius was the composer of the Christmas carol “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” known in English as “Lo, how a rose e’re blooming,” and of one of the most elaborate and celebratory arrangements of the medieval carol “In dulci jubilo,” adapted in English as “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”

A Lutheran pastor’s son, Praetorius spent his early career as an organist. Later in life, he was the Kapellmeister (music director) of choral and instrumental ensembles in the courts of the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Wolfenbüttel and the king of Saxony in Dresden.

Born as Michael Schultze, he was not related to the Praetorius family of musicians – the best-known was Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) – who were active in the 16th and 17th centuries in northern Germany.

Most of Michael Praetorius’ compositions were religious, the bulk of them gathered in “Musae Sioniae” (1605-10), a nine-part collection of Lutheran chorales, and “Polyhymnia exercitatrix” (1619-20), a two-part collection of Lutheran chorales and Latin “Hallelujah” settings.

His “Terpsichore” (1612), a large set of dance tunes, became a reference work of Renaissance and early baroque instrumental music for modern performers and listeners. Not just classical mavens – “La bourée à 5” turned up in the Fifth Estate’s 1967 pop hit remake of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz.” (“Terpsichore” is my music of choice for Christmas tree-trimming.)

(Hat tip to The New York Times Anthony Tommasini for noting Tenet’s video in his review of the concert.)

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