In honour of the rose-coloured vestments for Gaudete Sunday, I have decided that we are going to view this entire week through rose-themed glasses. It helps that everyone, regardless of language, seems to have hit on the idea of associating Mary, and sometimes Jesus, with roses, so there is quite an astonishing range of rose-themed carols to choose from.
For today, we will start with a very famous German carol from the 16th century, with harmonies from the 17th century, so it’s nicely aged. The complete lyrics (in both English and German) can be found by clicking through to the video I’ve attached below, but in this particular carol, it is Jesus who is depicted as a rose coming into bloom at midwinter from the branch of Jesse, and dispersing sweetness everywhere.
I was going to give you a straight choral version, à la Praetorius, and indeed, I thought that was what I had found here, but after the first verse it went unexpectedly fugal before returning to its original tune. Surprise! But one can never really have too much polyphony, so I’m all for it.
If this isn’t weird enough for you, Jan Sandström has had a turn at making it 20th century and atmospheric, which is pretty cool. And if on the other hand, you are a traditionalist at heart, here’s a really lovely recording with Kathleen Battle and the Boys’ Choir of Harlem, which is beautifully sung and very peaceful.