A Beautiful Rose Blossoms
Christmas Music from the Old Hungary
Clemencic Consort


A Beautiful Rose Blossoms
Christmas Music from the old Hungary

Old Hungarian Christmas music contains an unmistakable depth and universally human element. Practically all registers of human emotion find expression in these dulcet tones. Deeply mystical, extremely joyful emotional beatitude and youthfully innocent joviality coexist side by side. Folk elements are effortlessly mixed with the highly stylized, archaic and pagan elements are blended together with Christian. The various influences meld with natural ease and versatility!

Our timeframe is virtually unlimited. It begins with the ancient and archaic and extends to include music of the 18th century, whereby the individual pieces only rarely enjoy a specific date. That which sounds old can just as easily be new and that which sounds new could have it origins in times long past.

Most of the Christmas pieces stem from the realm of Hungarian folk music, whose treasure trove of melodies is one of the richest in the world. It spans from the simplest, quasi minimalist structures, to complicated and broadly arranged melodic compositions. This world of sounds appears as a wonderfully large puzzle, just as the Hungarian people and their language do, direct on our borders in the middle of Europe. Origin and age are not always capable of being discerned. The hint of an ancient musical realm blends almost seamlessly with that of the new. In particular, Bartók and Kodály are to receive credit for calling attention to this treasure and guaranteeing its status as a living tradition.

We have supplemented the essentially monophonic folk music with polyphonic pieces from the Middle Ages and Baroque. Novus annus adiit, Rotulus and In hoc anni circulo are drawn from an upper-Hungarian manuscript from the early 15th century, the time of Sigismund, the Roman Emperor of the German Nation and King of Hungary. They show the relatively late adaptation of the French Ars Antiqua in Hungary. Rotulus is canonical in its influence. The versions comprised of four vocals, mostly German church songs, are part of the Graduale of Eperjes (1635). A colourful mixture of Hungarian and German songs accompanies the Latin Church music (Halljatok Mennyégből, Nekünk ez napon, Mind ez világ). The subsequent 16th century Almande is meant to demonstrate the older origin of Mind ez világ. The three pieces for the organ (Fiant Domine, Fantasia, Kyrie) are taken from the Codex Kájoni. János Kájoni, a Catholic priest, was an organist, organ builder, philosopher, theologian, printer and painter. His Cantionale Catholicum is a voluminous collection of Catholic hymns, the melodies of which are, at least in part, likely taken from the folk tradition and in certain cases were taken up into the folk song tradition. The Codex Kájoni contains, among other things, a series of – mostly anonymous – pieces for the organ, predominantly for use in the church.

René Clemencic
(Translation: Maurice Sprague)