A Christmas Cantata


One of the greatest pieces of Advent music is not well known, nor often performed. In this Second Week of Advent, give yourself a half-hour to immerse yourself in the wonderful Christmas Cantata (Une Cantate de Noël) by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger (1892-1955). It begins almost inaudibly with a depiction of the deep darkness of humanity longing for God, with the cry “De profundis” (“Out of the depths I  cry to you, O Lord”), which leads to a wondrous and playful juxtaposition of Christmas carols. The piece concludes with a majestic hymn of praise. I predict it will become one of your favorites. Fortunately, several good recordings are available on YouTube. Here’s one of the best.

Honegger was a Catholic, a man of deep faith in a very troubled and turbulent time in Europe. Perhaps that’s a good reason to promote a revival of his music today. The Christmas Cantata was his last work, completed only a year or so before he died. He had in mind to compose a similar work on the Passion and an Easter cantata, but these plans never materialized.

If you want to read more about this wonderful piece and this fascinating composer, I recommend these excellent program notes by Michael Moore of a concert of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and an extensive website devoted to Arthur Honegger, his life and music.

2 thoughts on “A Christmas Cantata

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  1. Hi FR Tom… Good morning From Claremont Villege..
    Feel like I am back at home because I have been here Fri 8th
    For Mass Sat for Holy Mass and now ‘‘tis morning to pick up
    Something for Vince…
    Resisting Farmers Market with cup of coffe while waiting..
    Will be back to hear our Granddaughter sing at Claremont Manor later today…
    A delight to see your connection to the Christmas Cantata..
    Very nice surprise… to hear
    Thank you

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