After a couple of weeks of subtle early / church music that suits the Christmas mood well, this is a double CD of one of the daddies of the genre. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a baroque masterpiece made up of six cantatas. It tells the story of Christmas from the Nativity to the visit of the Three Wise Men, and it’s got all you want from “big” Christmas music, from trumpets to massed voices and big ladies giving it both bosoms.
It was written for the Christmas season of 1734, and each of the six parts was for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours — this recording is CDs of 75 and 70 minutes.
This recording appears to have been made in December 2010 at the Herkulessaal in the Munich Residenz by the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Choir of Bavarian Radio), under the direction of Peter Dijkstra, with period instrument ensemble the Akademie für Alte Musik (Academy of Ancient Music) from Berlin.
There’s a good reason this has remained popular since 1734, and it’s too massive a piece to start going through it. If you are familiar with this, we’d guess that, as a live recording, some of the levels of the instruments are not what you might get on a studio recording, but it all seems excellent to us. For those who don’t know the work, it’s an approachable piece of music, despite all the grandness.