Christmas Oratorio


In Leipzig in 1734, Bach composed his Christmas Oratorio of six cantatas, for the three days of Christmas celebrations linked to the birth of Christ, and for the three ceremonies at the beginning of the year: the Circumcision of Christ, First Sunday and Epiphany. In these six brilliant cantatas, full of life and enthusiasm, this work magnifies the alternation between the great choirs typical of Bach’s choral art, and the solo arias telling the moving and marvelous story of the Nativity and the recognition of Christ’s divinity by the shepherds and Magi.

The first cantata describes the birth of Jesus, the second the Annunciation, the third the Adoration of the Shepherds, the fourth the Name of Jesus, and the fifth and sixth the story of the Three Wise Men. They were performed in their entirety at Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church, and cantatas 1, 2, 4 and 6 were also performed at St. Thomas Church: Bach performed them in the morning in one and in the afternoon in the other, to the delight of as many of the faithful as possible.

Bach here dedicates some of his finest arias to the soloists, bringing together a fully animated orchestra that supports the musical discourse, armed with drums and trumpets in glorious passages to the delight of the audience. The most emblematic composer of German music at the turn of the 18th century, Bach was curious about the music of his time, and was able to produce a large-scale sacred work marked by his inventiveness. The overall impression of festivity is created by the predominance of major keys, dance elements, expressiveness and the revival of secular cantatas. This rich and complex reworking of earlier works gives Bach’s compositions “a multivalence that allows them to be used with the most diverse texts and to be interpreted in multiple directions, successively highlighting their different meanings […] It is because they are of great musical value that Bach’s works lend themselves to parody” (Ludwig Pinscher, 1969). These covers alternate with a large number of specific compositions, such as the Evangelist’s recitatives and most of the chorales.

Gwendoline Blondeel, soprano

Raffaele Pe, alto

Kieran Carrel, ténor

Peter Harvey, basse
La Chapelle Harmonique (choir & orchestra)
Valentin Tournet, conductor


Tuesday, December 19th, 8pm ~ Eglise Saint-Genès-des-Carmes

Wednesday, December 20th, 8.30pm ~ La Coursive, La Rochelle

Thursday, December 21st, 7.30pm ~ Théâtre Sénart, Lieusaint

Friday, December 22nd, 9pm ~ Château de Versailles

Saturday, December 23rd, 8pm ~ Opéra de Limoges