The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Merry Christmas from The Ear and Johann Sebastian Bach, who gave us the gift of his “Christmas Oratorio.” What is your favorite Christmas music? | December 25, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Christmas Day 2015.


The Ear has only a few words, but a lot of music, to offer.

First, he wants to thank all his readers for the ongoing gift of their eyes, ears and attention as well as their comments.

In return, The Ear is offering his readers his favorite Christmas music.

He loves it more than more popular works such as “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel or the “Christmas” Concerto by Arcangelo Corelli, more than so much other holiday music.

It is Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, which is not really an oratorio but rather a series of six interconnected Christmas cantatas that do not get performed live very often.

It is performed superbly below in a YouTube video by Sir John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in a superb performance that comes from their worldwide Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.

Listen to it for the energetic and brassy opening movement.

Listen to it for various other wonderful moments, including the lovely Sinfonia.

Listen to it for the gorgeous solo and choral singing.

Listen to it in its entirety or in parts.

Stream it on or around Christmas Day.

But listen to it, now or later, especially if you don’t already know it.

And be sure to let us know in the COMMENT section what your favorite piece of Christmas music is.




  1. “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter. “The Shepherds’ Farewell” is heartbreakingly beautiful, as well. Just heard the first cantata from The Christmas Oratorio on XM yesterday..Was not familiar with it– loved it!

    Comment by Ann Boyer — December 25, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  2. Love the Christmas oratorio as well, my favorite remains Gardiner : Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Musicophile — December 25, 2015 @ 8:53 am

  3. I have always enjoyed the Noels by Louis Claude Daquin. Here is the whole set: But I originally learned about them from a Christmas recording by recorderist Michala Petri. Here is one of hers:
    Have a Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Steve Kurr — December 25, 2015 @ 8:34 am

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