Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach, whose Christmas Oratorio and numerous Advent cantatas are an integral part of December, Joseph Haydn is not exactly known now as a Christmas composer. Nevertheless, in Series XXII, Volume 2/1 (HN 5541), of its Joseph Haydn Complete Edition, the Henle publishing house has brought out a series of small vocal works that Haydn composed for the Esterhazy’s matutinal Advent masses in the years 1765–69 and 1773–76. The Cantilena pro adventu in D major Hob. XXIIId:3 was probably composed in 1768.

Our Christmas blog post is not an appropriate place to go fully into its problematic transmission history, but we can say this much: it’s fairly certain that the music is by Haydn, though there are quite a few question marks regarding the vocal text. The sources include, inter alia, both a vernacular and Latin text – “Ihr Kinderlein kommet” (a German Christmas carol) also underlays the melody. The complete edition assumes that the text written in the Burgenland dialect, “Herst Nachbä” (“Listen neighbour”), comes closest to the original. It looks like this on the first page of the complete-edition score:

The “Pastorella” swings along in the 6/8 time typical of the genre. And to close this year, difficult in many respects and characterised by many worries, in a Christmassy and hopeful mood, we recommend listening to this recording of the Cantilena, together with reading the accompanying text (this High German version is not extant, however, in the historical sources):

We wish our readers happy holidays and all the best in the New Year!

Your Henle blog’s team of authors
Norbert Gertsch
Peter Jost
Norbert Müllemann
Annette Oppermann
Dominik Rahmer
Wolf-Dieter Seiffert


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