Both in Italy and Germany, there was a strong musical tradition during the 16th and 17th centuries associated with Christmas; however, each country made use of completely different musical genres. Whereas composers in southern Europe frequently chose a theatrical setting (in Latin) of the already inherently dramatic Christmas story, the extensive repertoire of Christmas carols and songs were the best beloved in countries north of the Alps. Many of the traditional German-language Christmas carols first appeared in the 16th century, or at least were given a new form at that time. Theologists and poets like Martin Luther and Paul Gerhardt had a strong belief in the power of music in the context of personal spirituality and the church service, and produced numerous texts suitable for song settings. Older melodies of pre-Reformation origin were often used for these settings; some were as old as the Middle Ages, and sometimes new melodies were composed. Many of the carols which were created in this way, such as ‘In dulci Jubilo’, ‘O Jesulein s’, and ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’ have become famous in the intervening centuries and have been frequently used as material by later composers.Download booklet
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