Rudolf Schock sings 'Silent Night, Holy Night':

Since time immemorial I love the Christmas song 'Silent Night, Holy Night', and I think, in fact I am not the only person, who is in love. Every year again the song feels like a warm blanket in dark and mostly cold times: immediately the emotion at the prelude and the first four words.

"One upon a time..."
Preferably the genesis of 'Silent Night' is told us like a fairy tale of the Grimm brothers. In addition to that in different versions. Poetry and truth are closely interwoven. Certain is, that a lot of things about the song is uncertain. What is following now cannot be more than roughly an attempt to a recapitulation (thanks to www.stillenacht.at).

Joseph Mohr

Josef Mohr (reconstruction)

is born in Salzburg in 1792. As a child of an unmarried mother he grows up in very poor circumstances. His father (Franz Moor) was a soldier, who left the army and his girlfriend prematurely.
The church takes charge of the boy and offers him the facilities to become a priest (1815). In 1816 Joseph writes a poem titled 'Silent Night, Holy Night'. From 1817 until 1819 he is working in the parish church of Oberndorf. In that church he meets Franz Gruber, who is standing in for the church organist.

In the little Austrian village of Oberndorf something happens, what cannot be exactly found out:
On a day in 1818 Mohr shows Gruber his poem 'Silent Night'. Gruber promises to set the text on music at home in Arnsdorf.

The school of Arnsdorf, where Franz Gruber set
Joseph Mohr's poem on music

Mohr agrees with the - according to Gruber - "simple composition".
Still in 1818 Gruber and Mohr include the "Tyrolean folk song" in the Christmas mass of Oberndorf.
It is written for two voices, chorus and guitar (and the story is, that the church organ would have broken down). Joseph Mohr sings the tenor part and plays the guitar. Gruber sings bass. Probably he also conducts the church choir.

We know, Joseph Mohr was in the churches, where he worked, very popular under his parishioners. But the church superiors were rather critical on him: he would have neglected his priestly duties and established too close relations with female parishioners.
Mohr had not a good health. In 1848 he died after a long illnes.

Franz Gruber

Franz Gruber

is born in 1787 in Hochburg-Ach, a settlement in upper Austria close to the German border.
Certainly in the beginning his life goes off more conventional than Mohr's life.
After some years in a weaving mill the twenty years old music lover becomes - being inspired by his own schoolmaster - in his turn a schoolmaster.
In addition to this position Gruber is able to do a lot of work in his village Arnsdorf as a church organist and choirmaster. Moreover he is standing in for the local organist in the bigger village Oberndorf. His ambition is to move from Arnsdorf to Oberndorf, but Gruber gains no access there to a permanent contract as a schoolmaster and church organist. That frustrates him very much.
Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr worked together in Oberstdorf between 1817 and 1819 , and doing so they brought the world the heartfelt 'Silent Night'.
Franz Gruber died in 1863.

PR for 'Silent Night, Holy Night'

Text and music
Joseph Mohr's poem and Franz Gruber's composition consisted originally of eleven strophes. In the course of the following 200 years text and music changed, and the song was translated in all languages of the world. The translations had been rewritten again, so that another lot of variants are circulating now in each separate country all over the world.
People perform/sing generally 2, 3 or 4 strophes. The most beloved variants in the English and German language are:


Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft, einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
Gottes Sohn, oh, wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund
Christ, in Deiner Geburt

Christ, in Deiner Geburt.

Rudolf Schock performs Christmas songs
and recorded them on 11 March 1964.

'Silent Night' is the last of nine traditional christmas songs on the LP 'Weihnachten mit Rudolf Schock' (Eurodisc 71 501 IK). Werner Eisbrenner, the arranger, deals with a continuous musical accompaniment.

One LP-side opens and ends with sounding church bells from Berlin (Grunewaldkirche), Minden, Salzburg and - at the end - the voice-over of Rudolf Schock wishes his listeners - in German of course - a "Merry Christmas".

The other LP-side offers partially unexpected compositions: a.o. the 'Pastorale (Pifa)' from Händel's 'Messiah' (unexpected in Germany/Austria!), three Christmas songs of Peter Cornelius and the song 'Maria sitzt am Rosenhag (The Virgin's slumber song)' of Max Reger.
Conductor of the 'Berliner Symphoniker' is Günther Arndt. Arndt does not conduct his own 'Günther Arndt-Chor', but the 'RIAS Kammer- und Kinderchor'. Schock's singing is accompanied by Ivan Eröd in the Cornelius-songs at the piano and in the Bach-adaptation 'O Jesulein süss, o Jesulein mild' at the cembalo.
(In 1970 Rudolf Schock recorded another nine Christmas songs with Werner Eisbrenner, who this time arranged and conducted the songs. Some of them appeared now and then in LP-compilations).

The LP 'Weihnachten mit Rudolf Schock' transformed 1987 to CD. In 2014 the recording will also be half a century continuously on the market!
The order number of the CD is: SONY 258 455.

(Comment on the Sony- and earlier BMG/Eurodisc-CD:
In the booklet we read, that de church bells sound again. But we don't hear them. Just like Eisbrenner's continuous musical accompaniment and Rudolf Schock's Christmas wish. Rudolf Schock died in 1986, one year before the publication of the CD. I can imagine, BMG/Eurodisc removed the wish out of respect).


Rudolf Schock sings 'Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht',
and he is doing this marvellous:

Rembrandt: Announcement to the Shepherds

The three strophes are being performed in the most usual order in Germany (and in Great Britain too).
The RIAS Kammerchor produces in the first strophe a springy and driving legato.

Rudolf Schock begins his tenorsolo in the 2nd strophe softly, in
"Durch der Engel Halleluja" his voice lightens up brightly and still glows meaningful at the end.
Schock illutrates the announcement of the Angels to the shepherds within the limits of the little strophe as explicit and understandable as possible. With bravura: ardent and encouraging. This is the singer, we hear "clear, rich and commanding" in Händel's 'Messiah' and 'Ombra mai fu' (LINK: RUDOLF SCHOCK sings G.F. HÄNDEL).

During the 3rd strophe Schock and the choir are singing unisono. Only at the words of the first 'Christ in Deiner Geburt', in which the essence of Christianity lies, Schock's voice flames up once again, just for a moment. Then it becomes engrossed in the choir.

Rembrandt: The Holy Family

I wish the visitors of my blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017!

Krijn de Lege, 7 December 2015/10.12.2016    

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