The Bach Hour

Bach's Christmas Oratorio

By Brian McCreath   |   Thursday, December 23, 2010
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Dec. 24

While Handel's Messiah rightly holds its place as this country's classical musical soundtrack for the holiday season (quibble if you will about its Easter message;  there's nothing wrong with talking about Easter at Christmas - just ask Bach!), it's J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio that rings through concert halls throughout Europe at this time of the year.

The six cantatas that make up the Christmas Oratorio, meant to be performed on six separate days throughout the liturgical Christmas season, tell the Christmas story as only Bach could.  With a combination of individual and communal perspective on both the joyful and meditative aspects of the season, it's a piece that always offers performers the chance to find new perspectives, angles, and ways of expressing eternal thoughts and feelings.

If you'd like to hear all six part of the Christmas Oratorio, in a terrific performance led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, feel free to listen to them below.

Part 1 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)



Part 2 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)



Part 3 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)



Part 4 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)



Part 5 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)



Part 6 of the Christmas Oratorio (translation)

Magnificat

Friday, December 17, 2010
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Simone Dinnerstein's Bach

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
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About The Bach Hour

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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The virtually limitless well of music by J.S. Bach has always had a prominent place on radio airwaves in Boston. Whether it’s an iconic work like the Toccata and Fugue in D minor or a rarely heard but emotionally riveting church cantata, Bach’s music is a touchstone, returning listeners to a foundation on which so much subsequent music has been built.

The Bach Hour grows out of a tradition begun in the early 1970's by Robert J. Lurtsema of WGBH 89.7 on the daily program, Morning Pro Musica.  One of the earliest sets of the complete Bach cantatas on record (Leonhardt and Harnoncourt) was just coming out, and they became a regular fixture on each Sunday's program.  Now, on The Bach Hour, those cantatas, with the rich and diverse range of performances now available, are heard on the calendar days for which they were written.  Combined with recent and classic recordings of Bach's instrumental masterpieces and occasional interviews with significant interpreters, each week's program offers a chance to connect more deeply with this bedrock composer.

Bach's music is always enhanced by learning more, and to do so, here are a few resources.

Emmanuel Music
One of Boston's signature music organizations, the late Craig Smith formed Emmanuel Music in 1970 to integrate Bach's cantatas into the liturgy of Emmanuel Church.  Now led by Ryan Turner, it continues to make this music available to all, and the collection of program notes and translations is invaluable.

Bach Cantatas Website
An amazing repository of information and discussion, the Bach Cantatas Website will keep you busy for hours.

The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach
Created and curated by a British Bach enthusiast, Julian Mincham, this is another very deep well to explore, made more valuable by its very personal approach.

J.S. Bach Home Page
Facts, facts, and more facts.  Another invaluable resource.

Oregon Bach Festival's Digital Bach Project
Centered on Bach's Mass in B minor, this site brings you a set of lecture demonstrations and masterclasses with conductor Helmuth Rilling, along with a set of writings on the Mass by several scholars and performers.  Also included is a digital breakdown of the Mass, with program notes and the digitized score in Bach's manuscript, which you can follow with audio of a performance.

Bradley Lehman's Theory of Intonation
Based on what was once thought to be ornamental penmanship on the manuscript of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, Lehman has revolutionized the way performers approach these pieces (and not without controversy!)

Bach's Cello Suites with Pieter Wispelwey

For his third recording of the cornerstone works for his instrument, Pieter Wispelwey created a documentary that explores issues of intonation, style, and history.



Bach and Friends
Michael Lawrence's gorgeous film that explores many musicians' relationships to Bach.



Genius Within:  The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Not strictly about the pianist's relationship with Bach, but indispensible as a resource for understanding a musician who brought countless people to Bach.



More about Brian McCreath, host of The Bach Hour

The Bach Hour archive

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