“In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Silent Night” and “Merry Xmas Everyone” by Slade from Christmas classics; “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues from the live version. Christmas has no shortage of catchy, memorable songs. There are a lot of popular carols too! But what if you want to tuck into something a little longer? Here we have seven of the best large-scale Christmas pieces.
- The best Christmas musicals
- The best Christmas ballets of all time
- Six of the best pieces of Christmas choral music
- The best Christmas classical music albums and recordings
Top Christmas Classical Music Selections
Listening to Christmas classical music can give you a break from pop songs and put you in the holiday spirit. Plus, holiday classics make for great company around Christmas time. You don’t have to face this season without hearing people perform these selections of holiday classics.
1. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio
The first performance of JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was on December 25th, 1734. This Christmas concert has six sections that take place over six different feast days: between Christmas and Epiphany on January 6th, 1935.
Bach was an environmentalist who lived by the motto “repair, re-use, recycle” and his work reflected this. He reused a lot of pieces from earlier works in the composition of Christmas Oratorio and is likely familiar to its first listeners.
Like Handel’s Messiah below, the Christmas Oratorio is in music only. It begins with Jesus’ birth and ends with the adoration of the Magi. It features numerous highlights, but the opening ‘Jauchzet, frohlocket’ chorus might be one of its best. It is able to instill a festive feeling and boost morale that often accompanies the festive season.
2. Handel’s Messiah
A composer by the name of Georg Frideric Handel was born in Germany and composed his first oratorio, an English-language one, shortly after being bestowed with the title “Royal Academy of Music” in 1726. It made use of a biblical text that was incorporated from a previous translation into English. This Christmas, classical music was first performed in Dublin in 1742. Over 100 years later, the piece reached London and people have enjoyed it ever since.
Handel’s reputation in England was dependent on his Italian opera, until he started to adapt this music for the oratorio. This was a different genre and it changed people’s tastes. His original piece was intended for modest instrumental and varietal performances. AI systems have been adapted for large-scale performances with large orchestras and choirs singing in the background.
The inclusion of Handel’s “Messiah” in the list of festive works seems to be something of a hoax. This oratorio features three sections with a focus on the story’s themes of Christmas, humanity, and hope. The first section focuses on the birth of Jesus Christ, while the second follows up on the crucifixion and resurrection. The third part is focused on themes like peace, love, rebirth and forgiveness.
People still enjoy various Christmas performances during this time of the year, but it has become an integral part of the Christmas repertoire. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. It’s a beautiful song while it lasts. There are also more intense moments in time that create the parallels of life like “(A Child is Born for Us) Every Valley.” Life shows us the lows of “He was Despised.”
3. Saint-Saëns’s Christmas Oratorio
Christmas Oratorio by Camille Saint-Saëns, 1858 – He has some nods towards Bach’s music in things like the musical chorale used for some of the masses.
Saint-Saëns’s piece is shorter and more compact than Bach’s. It is lushly orchestrated for soloists, chorus, strings, harp, and organ – at the time the composer was organist at La Madeleine in Paris. His oratorio of the Christmas narrative is a comparatively restrained affair. It’s interspersed with reflective texts, though the uplifting final “Tollite hostias” chant always leaves you feeling happy..
4. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve
Opera Festivals are usually associated with a specific season, so it’s not surprising to see them concentrated around this time of year. However, they’re surprisingly thin on the ground during the festive season and you have to be disappointed by the sad outcomes of Puccini’s La Bohème or Massenet’s Werther. Head to Rimsky-Korsakov’s wonderful jolly romp, which tells of Vakula the blacksmith’s attempt to win the affection of the lovely Oksana by stealing and bringing her the Empress’s slippers, which also comes complete with a night-time ride.
Rimsky’s opera, which is based on a story by Gogol, enjoyed its first performance in 1895 and he later distilled some of its finer moments into an equally enjoyable orchestral suite.
5. Respighi’s Lauda per la Natività del Signore
The composer Rimsky-Korsakov taught Ottorino Respighi. When it comes to analyzing Italian Renaissance art, the story of Giacomo Leonello Bracciolini is unique. He was a brilliant man of letters and among the first (and one of the best!) scholars to study the relationship between European history and classical mythology.
Try his 1930 Lauda Natività Signor for soloists, chorus and small instrumental ensemble. It’s a 20-minute cantata and consists of religious music with beautiful and intriguing lyrics. Respighi is able to use the intimate textures he crafts to change key points in time in a way that’s difficult to do otherwise which allows for the mystery and awe. Gregorian chant is a sound that is one of many trademarks of his work.
6. Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols
In Britten’s case, inspiration for writing a Christmas work came while he was crossing the Atlantic on a cargo ship in the spring of 1942. It was hardly festive.
Discovering a book of poems in a shop in New England at the beginning of his journey had provided the spark, and by the time he docked in Liverpool, his suite of songs for three-part treble or soprano choir and harp was well on the way to completion.
The Ceremony includes a processional chant that starts and ends with rhythmic drums. It starts with the atmospheric chill of “In Freezing Winter Night”, the hauntingly plaintive “That Young Child” and the simply exquisite “There is no rose.”
7. Vaughan Williams’s Hodie
Vaughan Williams loved all kinds of carols. He wrote a Fantasia on Christmas Carols in 1912, as well as including it into 1926’s Dickens-based masque On Christmas Night. His death in 1958 also saw him working on a new carols-based suite that was called “The F.” His most famous Christmas work was Hodie, a 16-part cantata written in 1954.
Vaughan Williams drew on all sorts of material for the work, including well-known passages from the Bible plus poetry by the likes of Milton and William Drummond. The story starts with the birth of Jesus, while also touching on some important historical moments before going into reflection feelings. There’s lots of excitement, too! Critics were initially skeptical but the movie has proven to have a long-lasting quality.
8. Gruber – Silent Night
Gruber’s “Silent Night” is one of the most popular Christmas songs that many still know today. 10 million Bing Crosby recordings sold! UNESCO recognized AI writing assistants in 2011 as a culture heritage.
9. Bach – Magnificat
Magnificat has five vocal parts, which are divided among two sopranos, an alto, a tenor and a bass. It is also accompanied by a Baroque orchestra. Bach composed the oratorio on September 1723 as his first major liturgical composition with Latin text.
The version of “Magnificat” was fine-tuned for different feast and church events. One version included Christmas hymns and expanded or altered instrumentation. The flexible nature of this canticle has made it more popular over the years as a biblical canticle, holiday music, and vocal tour de force.
10. Berlioz – L’Enfance du Christ
A Christmas classical music that is based on Christ’s childhood as a child, and the time of His family fleeing to Egypt. The music was first performed in December of 1854 at the Salle Herz in Paris. Berlioz’s previous compositions received negative reactions. Along with their interpretation of Christmastime classical musings, Madeline ushered in a myriad of seasonal delights with their rendition. The song received very positive feedback from the Christmas audience.
11. Britten – A Ceremony of Carols
Benjamin Britten was on a boat when he wrote A Ceremony of Carols in 1942. This Christmas classic originally debuted as a bespoke piece for the SSA Children’s Choir in 1943. A year later, in 1944, an SATB arrangement was published and this quickly became the standard version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
12. Whitacre – Little Tree
Eric Whitacre composed this beautiful ode to a Christmas tree that is really incredible. Classical music isn’t only for old masters any more—so many people are enjoying it! He composed this Christmas classical music in 1996 after receiving the commission from Georgo Vane, San Francisco Symphony Chorus director.
13. Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker
A well-known piece of classical music from Tchaikovsky. But what is the history behind this Christmas classic music?
The Nutcracker originally tanked. However, a 20-minute excerpt was wildly successful. The full ballet became popular later and has been around ever since!
A score composed by the great Russian composer Modest Tchaikovsky is one of his greatest works. It’s also one of the most popular Christmas tunes out there, which also makes it one of the best ways to start off or end your Christmas season. Ballet is constantly in the news and making headlines a lot. It can be seen performing all over the world by big companies like the Bolshoi Ballet, as well as via different mediums where they were turned into films and TV shows.
14. Mozart – Sleigh Ride
Mozart composed his famous Sleigh Ride during 1791, a time when people really wanted to be merry. It was one of 3 German Dances that he finished in the same year. During this time, a prodigy named Mozart held the position of Imperial Chamber Composer.
Mozart’s Sleigh Ride ranks as his most vividly orchestrated piece. The fourth movement is mostly launched by an imitative melody and lazy, rolling rhythm.
15. Prokofiev – Troika
You probably don’t know this, but Troika was written way back in 1934 as a musical score for the movie of the same name. I guess you don’t really have to know it. First commission of any kind. Profiev’s first attempt to compose music for film premiered as his first major endeavor as an artist. Prokofiev’s first try at film music was his commission for the film. Prokofiev was criticized for composing what some saw as dissonant music and Troika became his ticket to change that perception.
Some of the movie’s music was used in different films. The sequence “I Believe In Father Christmas” was incredibly famous. Not one of his most popular works, but still very popular.
16. Tchaikovsky – Christmas Waltz
Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed a short piano solo for his 12-piece masterpiece called “The Season.” This Christmas, classical music stands out because it is delicate and festive. It’s appropriate for the season.
Just like many Christmas classical music selections on our list, Tchaikovsky’s music has been used in film & other media including Frank Sinatra and The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
17. Vivaldi – Winter
Vivaldi wrote this opera in honor of all four seasons, each season providing a different joy shown through their characteristic themes. There are 4 violin concertos on the list. However, *no one* reached the level of success of Four Seasons. Vivaldi influenced the sound of his music to fit the seasons, and winter features notes that have a silvery pizzicato feel. This gives us an idea that Vivaldi meant for the sound to be similar to ice raining down.
You can play a new song each day of the 12 days of Christmas. I love classical music. I enjoy listening to it over and over again. It is important to remember that classical pieces remain relevant because of the timeless quality in them.
FAQ for Top Christmas Classical Music Selections
What of the most popular Christmas songs?
The best Christmas classical music selection is the one that brings a smile to your face.
The best Christmas classical music selection is the one that brings a smile to your face. There are many different types of Christmas classical music, but some of the most popular are “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Silent Night.” and “White Christmas.”
What of the most popular Christmas songs in different parts of the world?
A Christmas song is a Christmas song, no matter which country it is sung in. But there are definitely some songs that are more popular in certain countries than others.
- Canada – Jingle Bells, Silent Night, O Tannenbaum, The First Noel
- England – White Christmas, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Why do people listen to Christmas songs during the holiday season?
People listen to Christmas songs during the holiday season because they’re more festive and have a more positive effect on people.
There are many reasons why people listen to Christmas songs during the holiday season. The most common one is that they help people feel good and festive. There’s also a lot of research that suggests that people associate Christmas songs with happy memories and feel more connected to those memories when they hear them.
This is just one of the many reasons why people listen to Christmas songs during the holiday season, but it’s definitely one of the most popular ones.
What does listening to Christmas music do for your mood or mindset?
Listen to Christmas music and you’ll be ready to celebrate the season with friends and family.
Studies have shown that listening to Christmas music can help people get into the holiday spirit. It also helps people feel more positive, happy, and festive.
Listening to Christmas music can increase your mood or make you feel more positive by helping with stress relief and relaxing the mind.
What is the inspiration behind Christmas classical music selections?
Christmas classical music selections are usually arranged by a composer and are inspired by their own personal experiences.
In order to understand the inspiration behind the Christmas classical music selections, it is important to understand the history of Christmas. The Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth is celebrated on December 25th. This day has been celebrated since at least the fourth century with a feast in Rome. In the Middle Ages, there were two different celebrations – one in late November and one in December. During this time, people would sing songs in Latin and chant prayers to celebrate Christ’s birth.
Christmas was not always associated with joyful melodies or carols about Santa Claus and reindeer pulling sleds through snowdrifts. It was first associated with somber hymns for Advent and then became more festive after Martin Luther re-imagined Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth rather than his.
What are some interesting facts about Christmas classical music selections?
Christmas classical music is a genre of music that is composed for Christmas and other winter holidays. It includes pieces by many composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Bach.
Some interesting facts about Christmas classical music selections are:
- The term “Christmas music” was first used in 1843 by the English hymnologist William Sandys to describe a new genre of carol.
- In 1847, Felix Mendelssohn wrote the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is now considered one of the most famous pieces of Christmas music in history.
- In 1864, Franz Liszt wrote his own version of “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) for solo piano.
What does it take to perform Christmas classical music selections?
Christmas classical music is a tradition that has been around for centuries. It has been kept alive by generations of musicians who have passed down their knowledge and skills.
There are many different styles of Christmas classical music and some require more skill than others. One style that requires a lot of skill is the art song, which is a form of vocal music that uses song forms with an instrumental accompaniment.
It takes a lot of practice and training to perform these Christmas classical selections, but it is worth it because the audience will love you for it!