Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Stephen Layton (conductor)


Stephen Layton and the combined forces of Trinity College Choir Cambridge, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an impressive line-up of soloists present a joyous rendition of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. This six-part masterpiece covers the events of the nativity to Epiphany and beautifully evokes the pastoral atmosphere of the Gospels which is such an important part of the Christmas liturgy.

James Gilchrist has become one of the most admired Evangelists performing today, his limpid, flexible tone and great musicianship bringing the stories thrillingly to life.

Behind The Cover

It's early Christmas morning, Saturday, 25 December 1734. You are part of the congregation gathered in St Nicholas's Church, Leipzig, and about to hear the first performance of the first part of unquestionably the greatest musical exposition and celebration of Christmas ever written: Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

The Christmas Oratorio is a sequence of six cantatas intended to be performed over the period from Christmas Day to Epiphany (January 6), and from the opening chorus of Part 1, with its joyful fanfares of trumpets and timpani ('Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage' / Rejoice, exult, praise the days) through to the closing chorale of Part 6 ('Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen' / Now are ye truly avenged), it's immediately clear that this is a work on a scale and ambition equalling Bach's great Passion settings.

Although that first performance benefited from the unique authority of the composer's own direction, it's difficult to imagine that the results would have surpassed this recording by The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with a distinguished line-up of soloists.

Our Leipzig churchgoer in 1734 would not have had long to wait before repeating the experience: Part 1 was given again that same afternoon, this time in Leipzig's St Thomas's Church (a short walk away from St Nicholas's), but we are more fortunate still and can enjoy an immediate encore on CD, download or stream.

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