Classical playlist for the festive season

Christmas music is enjoyed by many this time of the year. It could be time to spice up the type of Christmas music you listen to!

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classical christmas playlist
Why don't you update your Christmas playlist with these classical tunes. Photo: Yastremska, Bigstock

If you are like most of us, we all love the traditional Christmas music this time of year. But have you ever longed for something a little different to listen to apart from carols?

There’s a wealth of Christmas music to listen to apart from the traditional carols; even some of the greatest composers of all time wrote for the festive season.

Christmas Oratorio – J.S Bach

This work is one of the greatest marathons of all time – with its six parts, and a performance time of about 3 hours! Bach was a German composer of the 18th century who, among many other works, wrote weekly for church services.

The Christmas Oratorio was written between 1734 and 1735 and is a series of cantatas for the Christmas feast days of the church. A sacred cantata is a work for choir, orchestra and soloists based on a religious text and unlike an opera there was no acting involved.

The work is usually performed as a whole, or in 2 parts. As is typical of Bach’s music, this work is extremely complex. With superb counterpoint, simple chorale tunes and demanding solo passages, this music is suited for the seasoned listener of classical music.

Christmas Tree Suite – Franz Liszt

Who would have thought that a virtuoso pianist, who wrote the most dazzling and showy piano music would write Christmas music? The Christmas Tree sSite is a set of 12 pieces for piano solo, or 2 pianos, depending on the version used.

Composed in 1873 and completed in 1876, this set of 12 pieces is based on old carols and some of the work is autobiographic in nature. The work was dedicated to his first grandchild. Unusually for Liszt, those pieces are gentle, subtle and non-virtuosic.

If you are looking for something completely different, this work is for you. The work has also been arranged for several combinations since, including a full orchestral version.

Ceremony of Carols – Benjamin Britten

This magnificent work by the English composer Benjamin Britten was written in 1942 while the composer was at sea, traveling from the United States to England. The work is scored for children’s choir, harp and solo voices and later a mixed choral version was arranged.

Beginning with a chant-like carol, followed by a simple choral arrangement of carols with lilting harp accompaniment and close harmonies, this is a work not to be missed. It is full of a variety of textures, carol settings that will warm the heart.

The Messiah – Handel

Handel’s messiah is one of the most popular choral works of all time. The work was composed in 1741 in just 24 days for choir, four soloists and orchestra and based on biblical text. It tells the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.

In times past, huge choirs and orchestras have performed the work, but now days there’s a more balanced approach. There are many recordings available dating as far back as 1928.

The traditional Christmas carols are fantastic to sing and listen to. But why not try some different music this Christmas season? There is a huge variety out there, but this should your appetite for more.