Bach: Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Reviewed on Wed 25 Dec, 2013

Although written to be performed on separate days between Christmas and Epiphany, the individual cantatas that make up Bach’s Christmas Oratorio are generally performed as a single work. Not quite a unified whole in the same way as, say, Handel’s Messiah, the six ‘movements’ of Bach’s oratorio do possess both narrative and musical unity, an obvious example being in the composer’s reprise of the opening melody of Part One at the conclusion of Part Six. Conductor Stephen Layton, soloists, orchestra and choir recorded their version in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. The congenial surroundings seemed to have provided more than just a delightfully warm atmosphere for the microphones to capture: the contribution from the college choir is especially outstanding right from the get-go with their joyous opening chorus 'Jauchzet, frohlocket'. But throughout this is a brilliant, life-affirming account of Bach’s great festive celebration.
–Mark Walker