I want to re-blog a post that I wrote for Ca Fleure Bon some Christmases ago, it’s now, as it was then for those of you who find the time to read perfume blogs over Christmas; a Christmas card from me, with some musical perfumed thoughts, and the two fragrances which I associate with this joyful time.
To me there is no Christmas without Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1734). It is the most tender and joyous interpretation of the Christmas story. It’s a mixture of texts from the New Testament, poems created especially for the arias and hymns from the common hymnal that everyone would have known at the time and still sings today on Sunday services.
The Hymns are special in that Bach gave them new life through incredible 4 part vocal settings, sometimes even with added slightly different instrumental parts, especially with the one verse in mind that these were created for. As great as the work is in its entirety, somehow it’s the intimacy of these simple hymns which bring the last bit of heart aching beauty to this glorious masterpiece.
Schaut hin, dort liegt im finstern Stall,
dess’ Herrschaft gehet überall.
Da Speise vormals sucht ein Rind,
da ruhet itzt der Jungfrau’n Kind.
Look there, he lies in manger drear
Whose power reacheth ev’rywhere!
Where fodder once the ox did seek,
There resteth now the Virgin’s child.
I love the theatre like text of this hymn; it invites you to look in on the scene from afar. The gloomy stables are discreetly suggested by the descending voice of basses and the warmth and intimacy of the words are painted with soft brush strokes of accompanying close knit voices. If a perfume comes close to this, it’s Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse by Mathilde Laurent. It is stables and the scent of animal and human warmth. It manages even the slight gloominess and dampness of that stable, and yet inviting us to come closer too, with all the cosiness of fresh hay and the enclosing cows and oxen. The hymn ends with the basses providing a rocking –like motion, to help the child asleep. If a fragrance could have a rocking motion, it would be the base of L’Heure Fougueuse. It is my perfect scent track to this song.
An absolute favourite of mine is the setting of this next hymn
Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren
ich will dir leben hier,
dir will ich abfahren,
mit dir will ich endlich schweben
voller Freud, ohne Zeit
dort im andern Leben.
I will cherish You assiduously,
live for You here,
to You will I depart,
with You, at last, I will float
full of joy,
there in the other life.
This hymn belongs on the 27th, the third Christmas day. The immediate festivities are about to end, everything points towards the new year, a new time. There is stillness in the air and a sense of waiting; it’s a time of contemplation and reflection. To me the closest to this sensation is Olivia Giacobetti’s L’Ether for IUNX, because this incredibly soft incense perfume invites introspective thoughtfulness. In the hymn the most fervent desire comes to expression. Giacobetti being a master of transparency, she manages to create this fervour in an incense and saffron swirl, which floats like the tenor voice which takes a ’leap of faith’ as it raises on the word ‘schweben’ (to float).
In the middle of this almost spiritual swirl of fragrance there is a discreet rose heart, which to me, mirrors the sighs of the alto voice on ‘endlich’ (finally), and there is the golden hue of saffron which is softened by sandalwood. Even if this can be worn all year round, somehow it manages to sum up the soul of Christmas to me. A divine creation.
Feature and bottom image my own.