Piffaro presents Christmas music from Southern Germany

Piffaro, the Renaissance Band will welcome soprano Clara Rottsolk for its annual concert series of holiday music from the Renaissance period. This year’s program features music from Southern Germany, a wellspring of Christmas traditions and carols that are still beloved today. Concerts take place December 8 and 9 in Philadelphia and December 10 at historic Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington, DE. For those who don’t live in the Delaware Valley, are wary of COVID, or are homebound for any reason, the December 10th concert is being recorded and will stream online December 22 – January 4. More information can be found at piffaro.org.

Artistic director Priscilla Herreid aims to evoke a distinct sense of the place with this program, taking listeners to the regions of Bavaria and Swabia to hear seasonal music that would have been played in cities like Nuremberg, Heidelberg, and especially Augsburg. Herreid grew up steeped in German holiday traditions. “This concert program is very personal to me,” she says. “It’s the music I grew up with. In my Lutheran church, we sang from German hymnals that were full of wonderful old carols, many of which are not well-known in this country. Singing from that hymnal was how I first started reading music.”

Selections on the program will include the Advent chorale tune, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland in settings by Johannes Eccard, Caspar Othmayr, Andreas Raselius, and Lucas Osiander; music from Adam Gumpelzhaimer’s inventory at St Anna’s Church in Augsburg, including Gregor Aichinger’s vocal concerto Nativitas tua; and many other German Christmas hymns that are less familiar to American ears. “Lutheran hymns were used as teaching tools,” Herreid explains, “and were an integral part of the service – one of the effects of the Reformation. The hymn texts are rich, and are often many verses long. This gives us an opportunity: each verse of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, for example, is by a different composer. Some of these have been easy to find, but others have been trickier to put together. One of our settings was missing a part, and a couple hours after mentioning it to my dear husband Grant (Herreid), he sent me his composition of the missing voice!”

There will also be seasonal secular lieder inspired by nature in arrangements ranging from voice and lute, to krumhorn consort, to an arrangement for bagpipes “a la Piffaro.” Many of the texts are evocative of falling snow and broken hearts. “‘Winter is cold and so are you’ was a popular theme,’” laughs Herreid.

att: Image of Clara Rottsolk performing with Piffaro in December 2021. Photo: Sharon Torello

About the guest artist

A brilliant and accomplished concert artist, “resplendent” soprano Clara Rottsolk has appeared as a soloist with orchestras including American Bach Soloists, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Pacific MusicWorks, the American Classical Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Bach Collegium San Diego, Virginia Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Trinity Wall Street, and Seattle Baroque Orchestra, under the direction of conductors including Stephen Stubbs, David Danzmayr, Nicholas McGeegan, Grete Pedersen, Jeffrey Thomas, Daniel Hyde, Joshua Rifkin, Bruno Weil, John Sinclair, Chia-Hsuan Lin, Gabriel Crouch, Timothy Nelson, and Andrew Megill. 

With “sophisticated mastery of the nuances of the libretto: with perfect diction and expressive delivery” (Cleveland Classical), she performs chamber and recital repertoire with Les Délices, ARTEK, TENET, Folger Consort, Piffaro, Byron Schenkman & Friends, Colorado Bach Ensemble, and as soloist at festivals including Carmel Bach, Berkeley Early Music, Montréal Baroque, Spoleto USA, Winter Park Bach, St. Louis Bach, Indianapolis Early Music, Whidbey Island Music, and Boston Early Music Fringe. 

Her solo recordings can be found on Chandos, MSR Classics, and independent labels. Currently she is based in Philadelphia and teaches voice at Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges.

About Piffaro

Piffaro, the Renaissance band has delighted audiences around the world for over three decades with highly polished recreations of the rustic music of the peasantry and the elegant sounds of the official wind bands of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. They bring the sounds of the Renaissance to life with their ever-expanding instrumentarium of shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion – all careful reconstructions of instruments from the period and the only professional collection of its kind in North America. 


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