A Villa Lobos Christmas Gift

Sacred music coverIn 1952 Villa Lobos wrote a choral piece entitled "Praesepe," based on a medieval Christmas poem. This beautiful piece is for a choir, singing in four voices without words, and a mezzo-soprano soloist, who sings the charming Latin words of a homespun nativity scene. This version of the piece is by the Corydon Singers, conducted by Matthew Best. The soloist is mezzo soprano Ansy Boothroyd.

Download an MP3 file (64 KB/sec) of Praesepe (right-click and choose "Save As").  Or press play below:


Thanks to Hyperion Records for giving their permission for us to mount this lovely piece, flawlessly interpreted, expertly recorded, and perfectly timed for the season. Merry Christmas!

Music (1952) by Heitor Villa Lobos
Poem 'Beata Virgine' (1563) by Padre Jose de Anchieta

[An!] Sed iuvat interia tanti primordia partus,
[Um!] Nascentisque urbem volvere mente Dei;
Quae domus excepit Dominum, [An!] quae regia Christum,
Quae dedit infanti culcita blanda torum,
Quae comites sacrae famulaeve fuere parenti,
Qui puero cantus, qui conuere modi:
Nascitur in Bethleem, veteris sub culmine
Nascentem nudum nuda receptat humus.
Fit Praesepe torus; hinc bos, hinc tardus asellus,
[Un!] Hinc tacitus pueri pendet in ora senex.
[Um!] Jubilat alma parens, infantulus ore tenello
Vagit, inauditis personat aethra modis.

But it is profitable to turn over in our minds the hidden origins
of this great birth, the town in which God was born;
what home received the Lord, what kingdom welcomed the Christ,
What soft pillows formed a bed for the baby,
Who were the companions and servants for his holy mother,
what songs there were for the child, what music played:
in Bethlehem he is born, under an old man's roof
the bare earth cradles the naked baby.
The manger becomes his bed; here the ox, here the ass,
here the old man gazes in silence on the child's features.
The loving mother rejoices, the infant from his tender mouth
utters cries, the air resounds with unheard music.

Text and translation are from the liner notes to the Corydon Singers/Matthew Best Villa Lobos sacred music CD on the Hyperion label (CDA6638, 1992/93.) Used with permission of Hyperion Records.

Buy the CD from Amazon.com - buy the score of Praesepe from Cantus Quercus Press - check out the Villa-Lobos Store for all your Heitor-under-the-tree needs.