|Lyrics||John Mason Neale
|Title||Good King Wenceslas|
Royal Choral Society
Arnold Greir (organ)
|Matrix no.||DR 12350 3 B CT I|
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The story of duke Wenceslas of Bohemia is on the programme today, through the carol Good King Wenceslas, performed by Royal Choral Society under the direction of Malcolm Sargent.
Sir Malcolm Sargent started recording early. His first recording was extracts from Vaughan Williams’ opera Hugh the Drove, which was recorded in 1923. In an interview with Gramophone in 1955, he described how recordings were made back in the days:
"We could hardly breathe, I remember. There was the fantastic occasion when we did Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover. We were all crammed into one tiny room with our coats and waistcoats off owing to the hothouse temperature. This was necessary to keep the recording wax at the right consistency. Two big recording horns projected into the studio through gaps in the wall. On the other side of the wall were the recording machines. The sound went down the horns to the needle and straight on to the wax. It was all very simple. And terrifying.
"We were so cramped that I had to stand on a shelf, strapped to the wall so as not to fall off. While conducting with my right hand I kept my left hand- on the soprano's head, pushing her towards the recording horn on low notes and drawing her back from it on high ones, to avoid blast. Most of the singers took their places in turn at one horn or the other, squeezing their way round the orchestral players, who were packed like sardines in a box. For one of his entries the baritone had to crawl under the violinists' elbows, 'surface' just in front of the horn, then bob down and crawl back.
It’s not Vaughan Williams we’re going to hear today, but the carol Good King Wenceslas. The carol is not as well-known in Norway as in Britain, but the carol still has a Scandinavian connection. The tune of the carol comes from the Finnish-Swedish collection of medieval hymns, Piae Cantiones, published in 1582. The orginal text is a spring carol, titled Tempus Adest Floridum (It is time for flowering).
The carol tells the story of Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (ca 903-935), who is said to have gone out to give alms on St. Stephens Day (Dec. 26). When his page started struggling in the snow and cold weather, he was able to continue the good deed by warming himself on heat from the king’s footprints in the snow.
Wenceslaus was killed in a struggle for the crown, and thus he was never really a king. He was later declared a martyr and venerated as Saint Wenceslaus, and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.
For those who are in the mood for some visual holiday spirit, the story of Good King Wenceslas was made into a movie in 1994, starring Jonathan Brandis from The Neverending Story 2, and Joan Fontaine from Hitchcock’s Rebecca.
The lyrics for the carols are part of the public domain, and goes as follows:
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
Last update: 11.04.2011 12:28. Webmaster
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