I just came across a beautiful Christmas song — thanks to my friend Jean who just performed it with Columbia Baroque! — it’s Monteverdi’s Puer Natus.
Well, actually it’s not quite that: it’s a modern reworking of his Chiome d’oro, a duet for two sopranos and instruments, a secular piece about a lovely someone with beautiful golden hair that dances about and entrances the poet/composer.
The Puer Natus is that piece with the words changed — instead of Italian, Latin; instead of amorous, religious. In the Renaissance, this was a typical way of “covering” a popular song and repurposing it — the whole deal was known as contrafactum — and it’s still done today. The Latin text, about the birth of Jesus, was added by Larry Rosenwald for a performance by Voices of Music. The result is as intricate, passionate, and swirling as the angels in this Botticelli Mystical Nativity!
Here it is, from the wonderful Voices of Music YouTube channel: