Fed up of carols and mind-numbing festive hits? Ivan Hewett offers the best classical pieces for the season
Pop songs give us the happy, party side of Christmas. Bing Crosby and Judy Garland give us the nostalgic side. What does classical Christmas music give us? Nostalgia too, at times, and a cosy sense of gathering round the fire. Carols give us those things too, of course. But in classical music they’re often accompanied by something else, which often seems to have vanished from the world; a feeling of hope and joy, and a quiet, awestruck awareness of the miraculous. Here are ten pieces that summon up all those feelings
S BACH: CHRISTMAS ORATORIO
Some people have the idea Bach was always on his knees when he wrote church music. Not true. Here he stands up and shouts for joy. His Christmas Oratorio, composed in 1734, tells the entire Christmas story from the Birth right through the arrival and adoration of the Magi. This opening movement sets the mood. It’s in the celebratory key of D major, with lots of ‘royal’ trumpets for the Christ child, and the trilling oboes give a foretaste of the pastoral mood that comes later.
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