Distler’s Kleine Adventsmusik

¶  Thursday 7 December
     Feast of St Ambrose
     St David’s Episcopal Church

I t’s a pleasure to be leading the St David’s Singers and instrumentalists in Distler’s Kleine Adventsmusik – all the more so on the Feast of St Ambrose, author of the hymn (‘Veni redemptor gentium’) upon which much of the work is based. Distler was very fond of this hymn, later basing his best-known organ work, the Partita on ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, upon it, and borrowing at least one motivic idea from this 1931 work in the organ variations. Distler’s music is often interesting, intricate, magical even, also perhaps a bit intellectual, and cool in more than one sense of the word – but parts of this work remind us that sheer beauty was also part of the composer’s genius.

The work will be presented in English, though it’s worth noting that the American editor exchanged two of the texts Distler set for different stanzas of the hymn, somewhat muddying the connection between the narration and the sung text, and omitting the reference to the chuppah/thalamus (‘chamber’) of Psalm 19, an important and multifaceted image found in the Latin originals of a number of hymns and antiphons relating to the many Advents of Christ. It is to be hoped that a future English edition will rectify this as well as a number of ‘faults escap’d in the printing’.