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Christmas-Themed Classical Music

Scott Chamberlain "Historian and archaeologist"
The list author says: "Christmas has inspired composers to create some of their greatest masterworks, which have retained their appeal thru the centuries. Messiah has been a staple since the 1700s; currently The Nutcracker rules the roost, but Hansel and Gretel's enormous popularity at the turn of the century has ensured we still bake gingerbread for the holidays today. Here are some highly personal choices on the embarassing abundance of Christmas classics."
Nutcracker: Complete Ballet Score
Nutcracker: Complete Ballet Score
"Hands down, my favorite version of one of the 19th Century¬ís most vibrant scores.  Great  liner notes as well."
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Complete Ballet
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Complete Ballet
"Brilliantly played, one-disc version by one of the great Russian conductors."
Handel: Messiah / Röschmann, Gritton, Fink , C. Daniels, N. Davies; McCreesh
Handel: Messiah / Röschmann, Gritton, Fink , C. Daniels, N. Davies; McCreesh
"Which Messiah?  There¬ís a version for everybody.  This is in period style¬ósmaller forces, faster tempos¬óbut still has grandeur.  Excellent singing all around."
Handel: Messiah
Handel: Messiah
"This has long been the standard on period style performances."
Handel: Messiah
Handel: Messiah
"Solti is one of the most exciting on CD, done in modern style with a big ol¬í orchestra and chorus.  Real meat-and-potatoes version."
Messiah Arias & Choruses
Messiah Arias & Choruses
"If you think the full Messiah can be too much of a good thing, Solti also released a highlights disc that captures all the best parts."
Messiah
Messiah
"Mozart was the first of many to make his own arrangement of Handel¬ís masterpiece, using instruments and textures the older composer didn¬ít have.  Perfectly blended woodwinds!"
Hansel & Gretel
Hansel & Gretel
"My favorite version of this classic which for years was *the* holiday entertainment.  Everything is perfect, and the famous children¬ís prayer won¬ít leave you alone for days."
Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel [Opera in English]
Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel [Opera in English]
"Stunning new version of this breathtaking score, sung in English."
Christmas Oratorio
Christmas Oratorio
"Not really a single work, but a collection of linked cantatas that could not be more joyful.  Shows this stern master at his warmest side.  Rilling is legendary, this recording uses modern forces."
Christmas Oratorio
Christmas Oratorio
"Jaw-dropping performance of Bach's great work from an American Bach festival chorus.  Inspirational not just from a performance standard, but that a local group can blow the big-name rivals right out of the water.  Get this disc."
Bach: Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachts Oratorium)
Bach: Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachts Oratorium)
"As usual, Gardiner sets new standards not just for period style performances, but for any performances.  Lighter tempos and instrumental textures make the work more sprightly and festive."
Bach: Christmas Cantatas
Bach: Christmas Cantatas
"Bach¬ís Magnificat was originally written with Christmas episodes woven in.  Near-perfect version of the original work with some wonderful Christmas cantatas to boot!"
Christmas Cantatas
Christmas Cantatas
"Expertly crafted works, primarily designed for religious services, not for the concert hall.  They are more ¬ďinner¬Ē and less presentational."
Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ ~ Davis
Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ ~ Davis
"This work about Jesus¬í birth and the flight to Egypt has it all--genuine religious feeling, gorgeous melodies and a dramatic villain.  An absolutely mandatory work, and this new recording is a knock-out."
Vaughan Williams: Hodie (A Christmas Cantata)/Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Vaughan Williams: Hodie (A Christmas Cantata)/Fantasia on Christmas Carols
"Hodie is an absolute masterpiece--a rich banquet of moods, orchestral effects and arias celebrating Christmas.  And the Fantasia isn¬ít far behind.  Classic recordings of two sadly neglected works, which blow the socks of anyone who hears them."
Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
"Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (scored for boys' voices) is an eternal charmer, especially so in this legendary recording that includes stunning other works as well."
Christmas Ontario
Christmas Ontario
"Saint-Sa√ęns¬í work is delicate, refined and very French.  It is also is somewhat undramatic, despite its beautiful melodies."
Laud to the Nativity / Magnificat
Laud to the Nativity / Magnificat
"This classic recording has kept alive memories of a little-known work.  Respighi was noted for his huge works and bombastic orchestral effects, but here he is at his most restrained and intimate."
Charpentier - In Nativitatem Domini Canticum · Messe de Minuit / Les Arts Florissants · Christie
Charpentier - In Nativitatem Domini Canticum · Messe de Minuit / Les Arts Florissants · Christie
"French Baroque classic that has been lost amid all the Messiah recordings¬Ö"
John Adams: El Nino
John Adams: El Nino
"Inspired by Latin American poetry, this is a very different kind of Nativity cantata.  Adams creates gentle melodies and minimalist rhythms to recreate a Mexican-style posada.  Gorgeous singing."
Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors
Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors
"Okay, so its not the Christmas Oratorio.  This small-scale classic is still a charmer, and perfect for bringing in the tykes to love classical music."
Fry: Santa Claus Symphony / Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Fry: Santa Claus Symphony / Royal Scottish National Orchestra
"William Henry Fry (1813-64) was one of the very first American composers, and a bit of a loose cannon--in a good way.  This work depicts a snowstorm, Christmas Eve party and Santa¬ís arrival."
O Magnum Mysterium
O Magnum Mysterium
"One of the Renaissance's greatest composers, Victoria wrote the unforgettable work, O Magnum Mysterium, and later used the material for an entire mass."
Classical Christmas
Classical Christmas
"Great mix of hard-core classical music and traditional tunes done in the classical style."
Songs of Joy & Peace
Songs of Joy & Peace
"Great mix of music by a superstar, very fresh."
A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
"1950s-era classic with the Boston Pops, instrumental and choral."
Joy to the World - Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
Joy to the World - Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
"Another vintage album featuring one of America's great orchestras."
The Baroque Christmas Album
The Baroque Christmas Album
"Compilation of Christmas classics from Archiv's extensive collection.  Done in period style."
A Renaissance Christmas
A Renaissance Christmas
"Great collection of Renaissance Christmas tunes and readings played to absolute perfection."
Ultimate Classical Christmas Album of All Time
Ultimate Classical Christmas Album of All Time
"Hate the marketing, but a good variety pulled from many classic recordings."
O Holy Night / Luciano Pavarotti / Special Deluxe Edition (Decca)
O Holy Night / Luciano Pavarotti / Special Deluxe Edition (Decca)
"Every classical musician ever has recorded a Christmas album, few with such good results as this."
The Three Tenors Christmas
The Three Tenors Christmas
"Yes I know, the Three Tenors is a marketing gimmick.  But who doesn't love a gimmick when it works?"