Let’s Expand Our Holiday Horizons: A Top 10 List of Lesser-Known Classical Christmas Works

ImageI’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately on the “Christmas Channel” radio stations.  What starts out in early December as great traditional fare seems to devolve as the holiday approaches. Singers and arrangers with markedly less talent and imagination dominate the airwaves.  The classy arrangements and vocal stylings of Nat King Cole or the Harry Simeone Chorale are replaced by the latest pop singer with little concept of vocal support; nor have they been advised that certain songs simply don’t work when you belt them out.

So, I relegate myself to my classic CDs, and now to streaming of albums and artists that capture the season for me.  But as with everything, there is always more to discover.  What happens when we get tired of the popular stylings and even the usual classical fare (aka, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah)?  Where do we turn for some really interesting and quality Christmas fare?

That question was my inspiration for the following Top 10 List of lesser-known classical Christmas works.  I’ve weeded out things that are played every season (Handel, Tchaikovsky) and even those that deserve more concert play, but are generally well known (Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, for example). What follows are some composers we have heard of, and some that may be new.  I find all of the music engaging and appropriate for the season, and am happy to share it with you.  You Tube links are provided.  Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments. Happy Holiday Listening!

A Top 10 List of Lesser-Known Classical Christmas Works

1. Victor Hely-Hutchinson: A Carol Symphony http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCC-zjoiegE

2. Samuel Barber: Die Natali (Chorale Preludes for Christmas) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrhw2tsC0eM

3. The “Other Christmas Concertos:

Pietro Locatelli, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdhrBjyynZo

Francesco Manfredini: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Bq3m3Gy3c

Giuseppe Torelli: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKvNoI2nvRk

4. Alessandro Scarlatti: Christmas Cantata http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF5wQM5GIYA

5. Heinrich Schutz: Weinachtshistorie (A Christmas Story) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IF4giGN-LQ

6. Nicolai Rimsky Korsakov: Christmas Eve Suite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0vFOax7ZeU

7. Arthur Honegger: Cantate de Noel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shTDEWgHNgQ

8. Duke Ellington: Les Trois Roi Nois (Three Black Kings) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhr1ZQ7vPeY

9. Leopold Mozart: Musikalische Schlittenfahrt (Musical Sleighride) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4gWDMMWUYE

10. William Henry Fry: Santa Claus Symphony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dz8UzYe6SRk

14 thoughts on “Let’s Expand Our Holiday Horizons: A Top 10 List of Lesser-Known Classical Christmas Works

    • I agree! And I ran out of room to also include the Three Botticelli Pictures. The second mvt (Adoration of the Magi) is incredibly moving. Actually, I think the entire piece sounds Christmasy!

  1. One musical “stocking stuffer” that I’ve discovered fairly recently is George Chadwick’s “Noël” from his Symphonic Sketches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yAewWpUxW8

    I also really love Paul McCreesh’s version of Praetorius’ “Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning.” This is as far from dry, historical recreation as it gets. The final setting of “In Dulci Jubilo” receives an absolutely rip-roaring performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb9lIMxq2yE

    Great list of pieces! I’m already looking forward to next year’s list!

  2. Pingback: God Bless Us, Everyone: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens | daeandwrite

  3. Pingback: 13 Days of Relatively Unknown Halloween Music | Before the Downbeat

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