Noel Nouvelet For String Quartet – The final track on the Manor House String Quartet‘s album ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and other carols’ is the ancient French piece, ‘Noel Nouvelet’ (you can hear a sound sample of it by clicking on the link). Like many traditional melodies it has a complicated history that means there are a variety of sources, largely inconsistent. This in no way detracts from the majestic power of this melody which made it a fitting ending to the album. In fact it was originally a New Year’s carol which dated back to the 1500s and appeared in the 1721 ‘Great Bible of Christmas Carols’ containing 13 verses!
‘Noel Nouvelet’ is a tune which possesses great dramatic potential and this arrangement by Vaughan Jones has many virtuosic passages with a driving semiquaver accompaniment. In the second half there is a mini development section where a fragment of the main theme is passed around the instruments of the quartet before a downward chromatic sequence leads to a rousing coda. All in all a fitting end to two CDs spanning some 46 carols and several centuries of wonderful Christmas music!
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: