Christmas Oratorio – concert poster text
HCS’s new season kicks off with a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s choral masterpiece the Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachts Oratorium, BWV 248).
The Christmas story as revealed in the gospels of St Luke and St Matthew is told in six parts, each part intended for performance on the relevant feast day of the Christmas season: The Birth, The Annunciation to the Shepherds, The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus, The Journey of the Magi, and The Adoration of the Magi. As in Bach’s Passions, the story is narrated by an Evangelist and unified by meditative arias and by chorales reflecting the voice of the people.
The Christmas Oratorio was completed for performance over the Christmas season of 1734/35 in the churches of St Thomas and St Nicholas in Leipzig, where Bach was music director. It was mostly adapted (‘parodied’) by Bach from earlier works composed for other purposes, with new text compiled probably by Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), the poet and librettist who collaborated with Bach on many of his Leipzig cantatas.
In what promises to be an uplifting start to the new season, HCS will sing the well-regarded English version of the Christmas Oratorio prepared in 1874 by John Troutbeck.