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date: 19 January 2020

Weihnachtslied [Weihnachtlied, Weihnachtsgesang] (Ger.: ‘Christmas song’)locked

  • Geoffrey Chew


[Weihnachtlied, Weihnachtsgesang] (Ger.: ‘Christmas song’)

In a general sense, any song for Christmas (similarly, Weihnachtskonzert means ‘Christmas concerto’, Weihnachtsmusik ‘Christmas music’ or ‘Christmas piece’, etc.). It is often used in the same loose sense as ‘Christmas carol’ is in English.

The term was applied particularly to the simplest type of 18th-century Pastorella: a simple song, often strophic, often for one or two voices accompanied by two violins and continuo (or by the organ alone), sung in central European rural churches at Christmas, often at Midnight Mass. Other more or less equivalent terms, which probably cannot be precisely differentiated, are aria de Nativitate; aria pastoralis or aria pastoritia (possibly translations of Hirtenlied, ‘shepherd song’); Krippellied, Krippenlied or Krippelgesang (‘crib song’); and Weihnacht Aria and so on. Some Weihnachtslieder, noted down in 1819 when their popularity had already declined, are in the folksong collection of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna; an informant from Maria-Taferl gave some details of their use (reproduced in Klier, i, 45–7; Klier also printed many of the songs), though these do not apply to all Weihnachtslieder. Many survive in manuscript in, for example, local parish churches and others were printed as broadsides at Vienna, Steyr, Linz, Innsbruck and elsewhere....

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