Stephen Layton / Trinity College Choir, Cambridge

Bach: Christmas Oratorio

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Bach's Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, consists of a set of six cantatas, each with recitatives, arias, and chorales. Moreover, some of the music for this most solemn of Christian events was borrowed by Bach from his own secular compositions. Yet it is a unified work, designated by Bach himself as an oratorio, and the biblical narration of the Christmas story is worked into the usual recitative-aria structure. There aren't any melodies in the work that are really among Bach's greatest hits, but the ingenuity of the work as a whole lies in the way it's somehow greater than the sum of its parts. That's the appeal of this version by conductor Stephen Layton, four of his favored soloists, the Choir of Trinity College, and the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: it respects the small scale of the parts but treats the whole with the weight it deserves. Credit for the balance must go to Layton, who has gotten splendid results from the youthful Cambridge choristers in a variety of common repertory works. They enunciate clearly, hit the pitches precisely, and generally seem excited by what they're doing. The always lively Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is a perfect partner for the choir, and the soloists engage with the text and convey the feeling that they're in the ballpark of the ones who originally performed the work. There are more daring performances of the Christmas Oratorio on all fronts, but few that make such a satisfying and musical impression.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
1 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 08:09 Amazon
2 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:13 Amazon
3 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:50 Amazon
4 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:15 Amazon
5 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:22 Amazon
6 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:22 Amazon
7 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 03:03 Amazon
8 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 04:44 Amazon
9 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:24 Amazon
10 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:29 Amazon
11 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:34 Amazon
12 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:05 Amazon
13 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:41 Amazon
14 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:48 Amazon
15 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 03:25 Amazon
16 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:22 Amazon
17 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:40 Amazon
18 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:47 Amazon
19 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 10:46 Amazon
20 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:11 Amazon
21 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 02:44 Amazon
22 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:24 Amazon
23 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:27 Amazon
24 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 02:02 Amazon
25 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:08 Amazon
26 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:45 Amazon
27 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:43 Amazon
28 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:40 Amazon
29 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 07:53 Amazon
30 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:06 Amazon
31 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:30 Amazon
32 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:27 Amazon
33 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:06 Amazon
34 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:19 Amazon
35 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:41 Amazon
36 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 02:05 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
1 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 06:18 Amazon
2 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:35 Amazon
3 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 02:40 Amazon
4 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:52 Amazon
5 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:31 Amazon
6 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 04:45 Amazon
7 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:59 Amazon
8 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 06:41 Amazon
9 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:21 Amazon
10 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 02:09 Amazon
11 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:52 Amazon
12 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 04:36 Amazon
13 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:12 Amazon
14 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:32 Amazon
15 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:35 Amazon
16 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:46 Amazon
17 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:29 Amazon
18 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:07 Amazon
19 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 05:22 Amazon
20 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:43 Amazon
21 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:50 Amazon
22 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 04:04 Amazon
23 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:09 Amazon
24 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:17 Amazon
25 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:23 Amazon
26 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 01:45 Amazon
27 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 04:28 Amazon
28 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 00:43 Amazon
29 Trinity College Choir, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 03:17 Amazon
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