In terras descendam The descent to earth of the glad tidings is depicted figuratively. The melody moves down the staves in thirds as on a staircase. Repeating this image a fourth higher increases the intensity of the message’s significance. By linking together trills, the proclamation is spelled out in all its excitement. The request to the shepherds to come running to worship the small child is clad in a dance-like melody in triple metre. Triple time tunes suggest a pastoral scene, rich ornaments evoke the embellished instrumental playing of the humble people. The sounds of the recorder and the viola (or the trombone) also recall the familiar image of music-making shepherds. An exuberant sense of elation establishes itself.
The call to make music in honour of the growing child is enlivening. The shifting stresses of the hemiola endings seem playful and jaunty. In the ensuing sonata, the dotted 6/8 metre is taken up by the instruments, enjoying a game of imitation. The goings-on become increasingly wild and merry; an unrestrainedly rustic shepherds’ dance appears in our mind’s eye.
The following section is dedicated to the raptured worship of the boy. The calmly swinging 3/2 metre lacks any sort of worldly weight. The delighted spirit soars up into heaven. The echo effects increase the weightlessness of the happy spirit even more. In paradise, we will be kings – that is the promise. Rapture grows into heavenly exultation.