Christmas instrumental music
December 11, 2013 3:44 PM   Subscribe

What's your favorite Christmas instrumental, classical-sounding music?

I'm looking for instrumental Christmas music fitting the following parameters. (I'm writing a paper and looking for some good seasonal working music!)

- Instrumental. No vocals whatsoever.
- No electric instruments like electric guitars, synthesizers, etc. (Like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.) Basically I'm looking for pieces played by instruments in a symphony orchestra, piano, acoustic guitar.
- Thinking more "classical" music, i.e., orchestral, solo piano, solo guitar, quartet, chamber orchestra, etc. Not looking for straight-up jazz, although jazzy arrangements are fine. Weakness for solo piano.
- Both secular and religious music welcome.
- Unlike this question, I welcome schmaltzy/syrupy as long as it fits the above parameters!

Some examples of things I like:
Michael Dulin's Christmas at Our House - solo piano
Steve Eckel's Comfort and Joy - classical guitar
Northern Lights Orchestra - What if Mozart Wrote "White Christmas" - orchestral, schmaltzy (it has a classical arrangement of the Chipmunk Song...)
posted by andrewesque to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The piano instrumentals on Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas are jazzy, but in the "classically-trained" or virtuosic vein that is reminiscent of Bill Evans' more sentimental, complicated work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Christmas With The George Shearing Quintet may be too jazz for you, but the tracks are quite varied in mood--samples at Amazon. You don't get much better piano that George Shearing, sometimes.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:49 PM on December 11, 2013

About half of the songs on Over The Rhine's The Darkest Night Of The Year are instrumental arrangements of traditional Christmas music. I find the whole album haunting and listen to it every year.
posted by gauche at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Nutcracker Suite. Get the whole thing, not just the one or two parts that are popular (the Overture and "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy"). My personal favorite parts are the Christmas party in Act I and the long string of dances for the different toys and sweets in Act II, of which "Sugar Plum Fairy" is just one part.
posted by Sara C. at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by terretu at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2013

Two of my favourite Christmas albums that fit this bill are Christmas Classics for Guitar by Stevan Pasero and December by George Winston.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2013

Duke Ellington also has a Nutcracker worth listening to that just got a new release. There are also cheaper back catalog recordings of it.
posted by lownote at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe Jim Brickman?
posted by kathrynm at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2013

Came in here to mention that George Winston album. If you like the Vince Guaraldi stuff, you might also like A Dave Brubeck Christmas, also solo piano.

We also have that Stevan Pasero, and it came in a boxed set with Christmas Memories by Jim Bajor (piano) and An Angel's Noel by the Ware-Patterson Duo (flute and guitar).
posted by jquinby at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Gift, by Liz Story. Just piano and string bass, if I am remembering correctly. If I had to choose one and only one Yuletide album, it would be a hard choice between this and the Charlie Brown Christmas.
posted by bricoleur at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2013

I also came to rec December by George Winston, which is one of my very favorite things ever.
posted by MeghanC at 6:10 PM on December 11, 2013

christmas is not christmas for me until i've heard The Nutcracker.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

May be a bit late on this one, but you should definitely check out john fahey, the progenitor of what's now called american primitivism. He did a number of Christmas albums, but my favorite is The New Possibility.

Here's one of his later versions of Silent Night on youtube so you can try it out.
posted by neoist at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2013

-Winter Guitar, Lawrence Juber (all acoustic, no electric)
-Jon Schmidt Christmas (this one's all piano)
-Christmas Plain and Simple, Michele McLaughlin (also all piano and there's a newer CD too if you like that one)
-A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
-KDFC 102.1: A KDFC Classical Christmas (various, I selected this one because it looks like it avoids singers entirely)
-The Nutcracker Suite for Guitar Orchestra
-Dashing through the Snow (Soft Piano Classics)
-Windham Hill Holiday Guitar Collection
-Silent Night, Dana Cunningham Piano
-maybe Anne Trenning Watching for Rain (only partially Christmas-y)

Sorry, I'm going to have to stop there but there's probably another ten or so that I can dig up if you'd like. From where? You should really check out Pandora's Classical Christmas station (alternatively, Jazz or Peaceful Holidays stations), which is where I'm pulling these suggestions from, and thumbs-down any of the vocal ones. It's amazing how much of what you're describing is what that station plays.
posted by librarylis at 7:22 PM on December 11, 2013

I really like Snow Angels by Neal Topliff, lovely piano arrangements. Very soothing when the holidays get too crazy!
posted by Quizzical Hamster at 7:42 PM on December 11, 2013

Vivaldi Gloria in D major

This is one of the better youtube recordings I could find in five minutes, but there are utterly sublime versions out there
posted by mattoxic at 1:40 AM on December 12, 2013

Carol Symphony by Hely-Hutchinson
Christmas Concerto by Corelli
posted by lizabeth at 5:55 AM on December 12, 2013

Nth-ing December by George Winston. Everyone should have a copy of that album. In The Heart of Winter by Robin Spielberg is pretty great solo piano Christmas music. Also New Age Noel by Herb Avery is very nice solo piano holiday music, if you can find a good copy; it might be my favorite of the three.
posted by eafarris at 6:04 AM on December 12, 2013

Do you like brass? My dad used to play trombone so I grew up with A Canadian Brass Christmas and The Christmas Album. Though I should warn you that it's not all instrumental - particularly The Christmas Album has some choral arrangements alongside instrumental tracks.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2013

Try hammered dulcimer. Steve and Ruth Smith's CD "An Appalachian Winter" is one example (hammered dulcimer & guitar).
posted by LiverOdor at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's Archangelo Correlli's Christmas Concerto.
posted by bertran at 7:54 AM on December 12, 2013

Harvey Reid's album "The Heart of the Minstrel on Christmas Day" is almost all instrumental (I think only the title song has singing?).

(He seems to have a newer Christmas album out as well with Joyce Andersen, but I don't know anything about that album.)
posted by eviemath at 8:13 AM on December 12, 2013

Not classical, but the schmaltzy holiday instrumental is Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride.

And seconding John Fahey.
posted by Rash at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2013

The Hampton String Quartet has an xmas album
posted by J0 at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2013

not sure if this is okay, but here is an electronica (nintendoey) christmas album i did! UXMASCOL - modbom
posted by modbom at 12:16 PM on December 12, 2013

Ottmar Liebert - Poets & Angels - Latin Guitar - different, but very good.
posted by bonofasitch at 1:49 PM on December 13, 2013

Instrumental Christmas music is my favorite kind. :)
posted by Aleyn at 10:55 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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