In 1734 Bach broke with tradition, and instead of writing one new cantata for Christmas he composed six — in the process creating a magnificent cycle that was to be performed across six separate services between Christmas and Epiphany. This is storytelling on a grand scale, recounting the Christmas narrative in real time, with each new chapter moulded to fit the sequence of the Christmas story.
From lilting flutes to glittering brass, the Christmas Oratorio contains some of Bach’s most vibrant orchestration, with a lightness that sets the work apart from his passions. And, in a story which might lack the urgency of an operatic plot, Bach guides his listeners on, deftly balancing storytelling with space for thought and contemplation. What better way to usher in the festive celebrations.
Christmas Oratorio (Parts 1, 2, 5 & 6), BWV 248