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Prætorius

Michael Prætorius as publisher and arranger is well known for the inexhaustible dances from Terpsichore. Prætorius as fervent composer of powerful motets and joyful anthems deserves equal fame.
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From the days of the late David Munrow onwards, Prætorius has been part of people's introduction to renaissance music. Countless music-lovers of my age will remember that cheerful record-cover with the little prints from the Orchésographie, and even more aspiring recorder players will have huffed and puffed their happy way through one or other book of transcriptions. Is it fair, though, to remember Praetorius only by his arrangements?

A couple of years ago we found a new CD [439 250-2] of Christmas music - Lutheran mass as it might have been celebrated in around 1620. Too good to miss, especially as it was recorded in Roskilde cathedral; this is a clean, beautiful building which exemplifies the moderate Danish approach to the Reformation. No hot-headed iconoclasm here, and the gorgeous bits of mediæval polychrome that were felt worth keeping now look all the better against the cool brick and whitewash interior. But, and not for the first time, I digress. This glorious recording demonstrates that Lutherans were not necessarily opposed to ornament and beauty; and also shows that Praetorius already has a place in our memories whether we know it or not. Imagine Christmas without Vom Himmel hoch, for example, or In dulci iubilo ...

Encouraged by this, we looked for some more and found a fine CD [SK 48 039] of liturgical music ranging from sombre, moving anthems such as Aus tiefer Not to finely composed "musician's music" such as the Magnificat per omnes versus. If, like me, you hold that worship can be enhanced and enriched by good music, you should look out for these two recordings.