Good King Wenceslas for String Quartet – This famous tune features on the Manor House String Quartet‘s second CD of Christmas carols called ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and other carols’. When arranger Vaughan Jones came to setting this particular melody, he had doubts about it as it’s said to have originated in the 13th century with the pretty title ‘Tempus Adest Floridum’ (‘The Time For Flowering’) and as such was a spring carol. It also appeared in the famous Finnish collection of 1582 entitled ‘Piae Cantiones’ and it wasn’t until the 19th century that it gained it’s present title, along with some fanciful Victorian words by James Mason Neale¬†that lend to it a mock-religious tone.
Vaughan said, ‘Originally I wondered whether this carol (with it’s springtime connections) should be on the disc, but I concluded that if it ceased to be heard at Christmas, it’s delightful melody may end up only being enjoyed by a few in the months of spring.’ Whatever it’s origins, it has¬†evolved into¬†a favourite at Christmas time!
This arrangement bears more than a passing similarity to ‘Deck The Hall’ on the¬†earlier disc ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’, with it’s repeated quaver notes over a cello pizzicato setting the scene. The later section where the quartet divides and passes the theme backwards and forwards also reminds me of the earlier arrangement. Jolly and brief, it is one where the snow is certainly under foot!
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: