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Bach's Christmas Oratorio



An exploration of the six cantatas performed in Leipzig’s St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches in December 1734. These six Bach cantatas were written to correspond with the days of the Lutheran church year, and are collectively referred to as the "Christmas Oratorio". We start the week with Cantata No. 1 (For the First Day of Christmas) and we will end with Cantata No. 6 for Epiphany.

Program 1

The six Bach cantatas we'll be looking at were written to correspond with the days of the Lutheran church year, and are collectively referred to as the "Christmas Oratorio". We start at the start, with Cantata No. 1--For the First Day of Christmas. We've got time to hear the whole cantata; none of the six cantatas lasts more than half an hour.  This means that we have time at the end of each program to play some extra Bach tunes, such as this solo violin piece, Sonata No. 3 in C Major, part of a series of pieces written whilst Bach was working for a very austere church.

J.S. Bach: Cantata No. 1 from the Christmas Oratorio- For the 1st day of Christmas

Monte-verdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists/ Gardiner

Bach: Christmas Oratorio / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

Archiv 423232



J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005

Hilary Hahn, v.

Hilary Hahn Plays Bach

Sony 62793


Program 2

In this segment we begin with Cantata No. 2--for the 2nd Day of Christmas from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which draws heavily from the Gospel of Luke and includes the oft-told story of the shepherds in the fields receiving an angelic surprise. The bonus Bach piece in this segment is Suite No. 3 in C Major, written for cello during a time that the cello was starting to replace the viol family of instruments.

J.S. Bach: Cantata No. 2 from the Christmas Oratorio- For the 2nd day of Christmas

Monte-verdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists/ Gardiner

Bach: Christmas Oratorio / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

Archiv 423232



J.S. Bach: Suite No. 3 in C BWV 1009

Pierre Fournier, vc.

Bach: 6 Suites for Solo Cello / Pierre Fournier

DG 449711


Program 3

We start with the third part of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Cantata No. 3 for the 3rd Day of Christmas. This music was first heard in the German city of Leipzig in 1734, just shy of 300 years ago. Afterwards, we have time for two extra Bach pieces, so we hear Orchestral Suite No. 2 and "Erfreute Zeit", from Cantata No. 83, not to be confused with the cantatas that make up the Christmas Oratorio.

J.S. Bach: Cantata No. 3 from the Christmas Oratorio- For the 3rd day of Christmas

Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/ Koopman; Larrson, s.;

Von Magnus, a.; Pre-gardien, t.; Mertens, b.  

Bach: Christmas Oratorio / Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque

Erato 14635

22:13, 3:39


J.S. Bach: Orches-tral Suite No. 2, BWV 1067

Berlin Baroque Soloists/Kussmaul; Pahud, fl.

Brandenburg concerto NO.5 - Orchestral suite NO.2 - Trio sonata - Partita

EMI 57111



J.S. Bach: “Erfreute Zeit” fr. Cantata No. 83

Venice Baroque Orch./ Marcon; Kirchsch-lager, s.

Bach Arias

Sony 89924


Program 4

We begin with Cantata No. 4--for the 4th Day of Christmas from the Christmas Oratorio. This is the cantata intended for the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and it sounds interestingly similar to some of the Brandenburg concertos, but it's not nearly as festive. Next is another pair of extra Bach pieces: Sonata No. 1 for Viola da Gamba & Keyboard, which has a very interesting story attached to its recording, and Passacaglia and Fugue in D minor, arranged by Stokowski for orchestra.

J.S. Bach: Cantata No. 4 from the Christmas Oratorio- For the 4th day of Christmas

Rundfunk-chor Leipzig & Staats-kapelle Dresden/ Schreier


Phil 420204



J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 1 for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard, BWV 1027

Rose, vc. Gould, p.

Sonatas For Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1014-1019 /

Sonatas For Viola Da Gamba & Harpisichord BWV 1027-1029

Sony 52615



J.S. Bach/ arr. Stokowski: Passacag-lia and fugue in d minor, BWV 565

Stokowski Symphony Orchestra

Bach • Stokowski

EMI 66385



Program 5

Well, we've only one segment left but two Cantatas from Bach's Christmas Oratorio remain to be covered. Thankfully, we can fit both Cantata No. 5 and Cantata No. 6 into this segment all at once, and STILL have time to close out with the Concerto for Two Violins, second movement. It's all a wonderful way to spend the holidays, especially since it's something different from the Nutcracker or Messiah, which are holiday standards for a reason, but unfortunately seem to eclipse this wonderful piece of work.

J.S. Bach: Cantatas 5 & 6 from the Christmas Oratorio- For the 5th and 6th days of Christmas

English Baroque Soloists & the Monte-verdi Choir/ Gardiner

Bach: Christmas Oratorio / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

Archiv 423232

21:18, 22:54


J.S. Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins, BWV 1043, II

Academy of Ancient Music/ Manze; Manze, Podger, vlns.

Solo & Double Violin Concertos

HM 907155




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