Northwest Chamber Orchestra of Seattle, Alun Francis (conductor)
Shepherds are an indispensable part of our conception of the first Christmas night. It was to them that the Angel of the Lord appeared, bringing them the glad tidings of the birth of the Son of God. Consequently, the sound of shepherd pipes of one sort or another came to be imitated in the numerous Christmas night scenes without which, it seems, no baroque composer felt his output to be complete; and associated with rustic piping was the languid 6/8 or 12/8 metre suggestive of an idyllic pastoral scene. The greatest of all such musical pictures, albeit without specific religious connotation, is in 12/8: the ‘Scene by the Brook’ in Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony. The present recording offers some of the earlier and less frequently heard representations of that momentous night in Bethlehem.