200 years ago in a small Austrian village, the world's most famous Christmas carol was created. Ludwig Güttler, who celebrated his 75th birthday this year, is commemorating this special anniversary with a special edition.
Take time in the summer to think about the winter, country folk would say. That is just as true of albums compiled to celebrate the happiest days of the year. In this record-breaking sultry summer, Ludwig Güttler has been giving some thought to how to celebrate the 200th aniversary of this global song appropriately. "It is one of the first carols I learned to play on the accordion, a present I was given for Christmas after my fifth birthday," recalls Ludwig Güttler, who remembers that when he was a child, everybody sang along. In fact it took him a long time to understand how anybody sitting in church could stay still to the sound of "Stille Nacht".
It is said to have been sung for the first time at Midnight Mass on Christmas night 1818 in the little town of Oberndorf near Salzburg, conceived by organist Franz Xaver Gruber and assistant priest Joseph Mohr. A song whose text may not be great literature, but has a tune that moves people and stirs them all over the world. Ludwig Güttler is especially at home in the 17th- and 18th-century vocal-instrumental music that flourished in Europe on both sides of the Alps. "I want to present a selection that shows how this Christmas song came to be written, and I have sought to depict the musical world that inspired its Oberndorf composers," explains Güttler.
In addition to the best recordings from his gigantic catalogue, there are also recordings that have not yet been publihed: Güttler has arranged "Silent Night, Holy Night!" for his brass ensemble, clad each of the six verses in an instrumental garb of its own and recorded it in the summer in Zwettl in Austria. He begins with a solo for Waldhorn, after which the melody instrument keeps changing, while various groupings add colour and diversity. The sheer variety of combinations in the brass ensemble are perceptible and intriguing. Right at the end there is a play on the echo, dying away for ever and for ever – altogether in accord with a song destined for eternity and providing impetus for reflection on the meaning of life.