Michael Praetorius:
Wachet auf

One of our parish’s favorite Advent hymns is “Wake, awake, for night is flying.” We sang it this past Sunday (Advent 3), and last week I shared a couple settings of the tune and text that explored its musical possibilities.

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621, about whose music for Christmas I recently wrote elsewhere) composed an extended piece based on this melody. His grand setting of Wachet auf was part of a collection of music published in 1619 called Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica. the subtitle of which was “Festive Concert of Peace and Joy.” Polyhymnia contained 40 concerto-cantatas for voices and instruments written in the expansive Venetian style (if you have no idea of what this means, just listen!).

Many of the works in this influential anthology of music were based on Lutheran chorale melodies, including several that have been discussed in these pages: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, Aus tiefer Not, and Wachet auf.

The performance embedded below was posted without information about the performers. If you are in the market to purchase your own copy to save and treasure or want to add it to a playlist, I recommend the recording of Christmas music by Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz by the Taverner Consort and Players, conducted by Andrew Parrott. Meanwhile . . .