Classical music for Christmas
December 13, 2007 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend classical music related to Christmas/birth of Jesus - preferably including comments on specific recordings.

I would like to listen to classical music with a Christmas or birth-of-Jesus theme, such as Handel's Messiah. There are two obstacles: first, I don't know classical music very well. Second, even when I do have a piece in mind (like Messiah) I don't know how to choose a particular recording.

If you can suggest specific recordings, that would be great. Bonus points for explaining what is so great about your favorite recording.
posted by medusa to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would highly, highly recommend any Christmas music by the female vocal group Anonymous 4. So gorgeous, so beautiful, I think you would love it. Renaissance and Medieval, Latin, Chant. Samples available to listen to on
posted by willmize at 12:40 PM on December 13, 2007

Here's a great Amazon list of classical Christmas music.
posted by Soup at 12:48 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: Bach's Christmas Oratorio comes to mind. I haven't got any specific recommendations for you, but I imagine one of these would be worth listening to.

And yes, Anonymous 4 is gorgeous.
posted by bassjump at 12:48 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: For Bach's Christmas Oratorio, I'd go for the John Eliot Gardiner recording - I haven't heard this specific recording, but Gardiner's recordings of the Bach B Minor Mass and the various Bach Passions are dramatic, energetic, and hard to find fault with.

Gardiner also has a Handel Messiah recording which is probably a good bet, although you might prefer something less "historically informed" such as the Philadelphia Orchestra / Mormon Tabernacle Choir version conducted by Eugene Ormandy. In all honesty, I've played the Messiah so many times that it's difficult for me to get excited about listening to the thing!

A favorite of mine is the Christmas Concerto by Corelli. This is the Concerto Grosso op.6 #8. My favorite recording is this one by Fabio Biondi (violinist and conductor) and his orchestra Europa Galante. This recording is just so much fun - soulful and sorrowful when appropriate, but always surprising and with the sense the the musicians are having a great time.

A bit of an oddball suggestion, but one which I really love, is a vocal recording of various early songs, most of which are holidays-oriented. The album is called "Mistletoe and Wine" by the Midiaeval Baebes (yup!)

If you are feeling quite a bit more adventurous, you should look into the music of Olivier Messiaen. One of the greatest, and most spiritual, 20th century composers. Here is a transcendent recording of "Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jesus" - 20 ways of looking at the infant Jesus. Certainly not party music or easy listening, but still indescribably beautiful.

Hit itunes and amazon and let us know what you come up with!
posted by violinflu at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2007

If you like choral music, you can't go wrong with any of the recordings from Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge
posted by hydropsyche at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks! These are all great suggestions. I may have to mark all of them as best answer.

Any further recommendations are welcome.
posted by medusa at 3:05 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: I would highly suggest a stop by Arkiv Music. Email them for some suggestions.
posted by Silvertree at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: I like A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten.

I also tend to associate Vivaldi's and Poulenc's Glorias with Christmas, but that might just be me.
posted by Zach! at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: All my compact discs are in storage right now, so I can't give you specific recordings. I've always associated Puccini's Messa di Gloria and Ariel Ramirez' Missa Criolla with Christmas, even though they aren't specifically Christmas-designated. I'll second the Festival of Lessons and Carols from King's College Choir. And the obvious piece of classical Christmas music is Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.
posted by ambrosia at 6:25 PM on December 13, 2007

Shameless self-plug: Camerata of London recently released a Christmas Album, featuring several up-and-coming opera stars. It's more traditional than classical but has some nice songs.
posted by cbrody at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2007

Best answer: I might have to buy this cd which has the above mentioned Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols as well as Poulenc's Four Motets for Christmas (which I like more than his Gloria) and a bunch of other great stuff by 20th century composers.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:09 AM on December 15, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks again for wonderful suggestions. I marked as best answers the suggestions that came closest to the type of music I was imagining - but the others are good too.
posted by medusa at 11:04 AM on December 18, 2007

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