The Christmas Oratorio for Chorus, Soli, and Orchestra

The Christmas Oratorio for Chorus, Soli, and Orchestra

by Johann Sebastian Bach
     
 

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This edition of the Christmas Oratorio provides all of the sheet music for the three-hour performance as well as the history behind Johann Sebastian Bach's masterpiece.

Christmas Oratorio is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 incorporating music… See more details below

Overview

This edition of the Christmas Oratorio provides all of the sheet music for the three-hour performance as well as the history behind Johann Sebastian Bach's masterpiece.

Christmas Oratorio is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 incorporating music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a now lost church cantata, BWV 248a. The date is confirmed in Bach's autograph manuscript. The next performance was not until 17 December 1857 by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin under Eduard Grell. The Christmas Oratorio is a particularly sophisticated example of parody music. The author of the text is unknown, although a likely collaborator was Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander).

The work belongs to a group of three oratorios written towards the end of Bach's career in 1734 and 1735 for major feasts, the others being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249). All parody earlier compositions, although the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work.
The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The piece is often presented as a whole or split into two equal parts. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours.

The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.

The structure of the story is defined to a large extent by the particular requirements of the church calendar for Christmas 1734-35. Bach abandoned his usual practice when writing church cantatas of basing the content upon the Gospel reading for that day in order to achieve a coherent narrative structure. Were he to have followed the calendar, the story would have unfolded as follows:

Birth and Annunciation to the Shepherds
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Prologue to the Gospel of John
Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
The Flight into Egypt
The Coming and Adoration of the Magi

This would have resulted in the Holy Family fleeing before the Magi had arrived, which was unsuitable for an oratorio evidently planned as a coherent whole. Bach removed the content for the Third Day of Christmas (December 27), John's Gospel, and split the story of the two groups of visitors—Shepherds and Magi—into two. This resulted in a more understandable exposition of the Christmas story:

The Birth
The Annunciation to the Shepherds
The Adoration of the Shepherds
The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
The Journey of the Magi
The Adoration of the Magi
The Flight into Egypt takes place after the end of the sixth part.

That Bach saw the six parts as comprising a greater, unified whole is evident both from the surviving printed text and from the structure of the music itself. The edition has not only a title—Weihnachtsoratorium—connecting together the six sections, but these sections are also numbered consecutively. As John Butt has mentioned, this points, as in the Mass in B minor, to a unity beyond the performance constraints of the church year.

The oratorio was written for performance on six feast days of Christmas during the winter of 1734 and 1735. The original score also contains details of when each part was performed. It was incorporated within services of the two most important churches in Leipzig, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. As can be seen below, the work was only performed in its entirety at the St. Nicholas Church.

Bach expresses the unity of the whole work within the music itself, in part through his use of key signatures.


Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque Period. He enriched many established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Many of Bach's works are still known today, such as the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, the The Well-Tempered Clavier, and his cantatas, chorales, partitas, passions, and organ works – and his music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015539363
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
10/01/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
220
File size:
11 MB
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