Marit Broekroelofs and the Margretha Consort present a fascinating program of seasonal music. There are plenty of early Baroque Christmas albums to choose from, in just about every flavor. What makes this recording stand out is the consistency of the artistic vision.

Broekroelofs has taken the seasonal repertoire of the early Protestant church and presents it as it was most likely performed. The program presents the members of the ensemble in a variety of combinations. The recording opens, for example, with an organ prelude by Franz Tundar. It then moves to Praetorius’ “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” for strings, chamber choir, and organ. From there, a hymn for solo voice and ensemble, then one for choir, strings, and brass.

The music is as varied as the lineups. Familiar hymns such as the “In dulci jubilo” and “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” are here, taken back to their original 17th Century versions. There are also some unfamiliar gems, too. “Illibata ter beata” by Basque theologian Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza is one. The beautiful “Nobilissime Jesu” by Czech composer Alberich Mazak is another. Mazak wrote over 300 sacred works — this is the first one I’ve heard.

The recording is excellent. This was music for the (Protestant) church, and a church is where the ensemble recorded. The decay adds resonance without overwhelming the sound. And for works using double choirs and echo ensembles, I could actually hear the spacial relationships between the performers.

I’ll be adding this to my holiday rotation.

A German Christmas
17th Century Music for the
Time of Advent and Christmas
Margaretha Consort; Marit Broekroelofs, director
Naxos 8.551398