A celebration of Christmas through some of the best recordings of seasonal music from our reviews

What better way to celebrate Christmas if not listening to some good music? Here you will find some of our reviews with suggestions for happily spending the best time of the year!

Johann Sebastian Bach Christmas Oratorio Janowitz Ludwig Wunderlich Crass RichterJohann Sebastian Bach – Christmas Oratorio

Münchner Bach-Orchester & Chor

Karl Richter, conductor

Deutsche Grammophon, 1965 (2007)

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio conducted by Karl Richter is perhaps the most “classical” and celebrated recording of the Christmas work par excellence, written in 1734 and heard for the first time in six sections between Christmas Day 1734 and Epiphany 1735. This is one of three works that Bach called “oratorios”, the other two being the Easter Oratorio and the Ascension Oratorio, both written in 1735, and principally consisting of parodies of Cantatas BWV 213-215 and of other works. Read review >>>

Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols Hodie WillcocksRalph Vaughan Williams – Hodie, Fantasia on Christmas Carols

String Orchestra
Barry Rose, conductor

London Symphony Orchestra
David Willcocks, conductor

Warner Classics, 2000

This is one of the most classical Christmas recordings, not only because the two works (Ralph Vaughan William’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Hodie) have been recorded in 1966 and 1965 respectively and therefore have accompanied many other Christmas, but also because of their intrinsic value. In this newly digitally remastered recording, the essence of these two favourites can be savoured. Read review >>>

A Baroque Chritmas Roger NorringtonA Baroque Christmas

Heinrich Schütz Choir
Roger Norrington, conductor

Decca, 1991

Few melodies warm the heart during Christmas time more than sacred Baroque music. In this wonderful collection of ten choral works recorded in 1968, Roger Norrington and the Heinrich Schütz Choir offer a selection of songs written between late Renaissance and early Baroque by some of the most outstanding composers of the time, whose names are still dear to early music lovers. Read review >>>

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Kathleen Battle Christmas CelebrationKathleen Battle – A Christmas Celebration

EMI, 1986

This lovely Christmas Celebration recorded by Kathleen Battle in 1986 is one of the finest Christmas albums ever released. The wonderful soprano offers a selection of traditional songs among the most famous and re-interprets them with her usual artistry, an artistry that –effectively – suits these pieces very well. Read review >>>

Renée Fleming Christmas In New YorkRenée Fleming – Christmas in New York

Decca, 2014

The first think that it must be pointed out to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment about Renée Fleming’s Christmas in New York is that this is absolutely not a classical music album, but it is a jazz-pop collection of fourteen famous songs, performed with a roster of guest stars of the calibre of Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Kelli O’Hara, Chris Botti, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Elling and Rufus Wainwright. Read review >>>

Renata Tebaldi Christmas RecitalRenata Tebaldi – Christmas Recital

Decca, 1971 (2004)

Great soprano Renata Tebaldi was almost at the end of her legendary career when she recorded Christmas Recital in 1971, but, after hearing her singing these popular songs with such sweetness and without any sign of weariness, it seems nothing but coherency that “the voice of the angel” recorded an album like this before leaving the stage forever. Read review >>>

Domingo My ChristmasPlacido Domingo – My Christmas

Sony, 2015

If there is ever been a Christmas album recorded by an operatic star that is light and amusing, Placido Domingo’s recording is definitely that one. It is entitled My Christmas, perhaps to stress that this time Domingo stands out as the only leading star and not as a primus inter pares as in the Christmas album he recorded with Pavarotti and Carreras as a member of the “Three Tenors” several years ago. However, My Christmas is not a solo recording and it features many important guest stars, including Vincent Niclo, Helene Fischer, Jackie Evancho and Placido Domingo jr. Read review >>>

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Rolando Villazon Feliz NavidadRolando Villazon – Feliz Navidad

Deutsche Grammophon, 2018

On the whole, Feliz Navidad is a recording that you hear with pleasure. Even though some elements are not perfectly balanced, this album brings joy and entertainment to the listener – which is the most important thing, after all. Read review >>>

Vaughan Williams Fantasia On Christmas Carols Hodie WettonVaughan Williams – Hodie, Fantasia on Christmas Carol

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Hilary Davon Wetton, conductor
Naxos, 2007

The present recording presents a very good performance of the Fantasia and of Hodie. Hilary Davon Wetton conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (in Hodie only, of course) obtaining a sound of wide beauty that really allows the listener to enjoy the joyful atmosphere of this inspiring work. The impression is that the conductor’s intention is to characterize this wonderful work with thoughtfulness, where joy is revealed by details, as in the solicitous singing of the chorus in The blessed son of God or angelical trebles in Now when Jesus was bornRead review >>>

Telemann Christmas Oratorio RémyGeorg Philipp Telemann – Christmas Oratorio; Christmas Cantatas 1761 & 1762

Telemann-Kammerorchester & Kammerchor Michaelstein
Ludger Rémy, conductor

CPO, 1996

Even though Georg Philipp Telemann’s Christmas Oratorio is not as famous as the one composed by Johann Sebastian Bach exactly twenty-five years before, those who will listen to it at least once, perhaps will agree with me that this is one of the nicest and most delightful pieces of sacred music for Christmas time ever written. Read review >>>

Sumi Jo The Christmas AlbumSumi Jo – The Christmas Album

Cappella Coloniensis des WDR
Michael Schneider, conductor

Erato, 2001

Listening to Sumi Jo’s Christmas Album is a marvellous way to spend the festivities. The Korean soprano and her guest stars are not featured in a recording filled with tinkling and ringing, but in a sober and stylish one. The tracklist include cantatas and other sacred pieces written by distinguished composer as Domenico Scarlatti (Cantata pastorale per la nascita di Nostro Signore), Christoph Bernhard (Fürchtet euch nicht!) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Exsultate, jubilate) as well as traditional music as I Wonder as I Wander, O Holy Night and Stille Nacht. There also few “intermezzi sinfonici”, the most significant being Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E major, connected with the holiday by its subtitle “Il riposo – per il S. Natale”.

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