The story of the birth of Jesus more than two thousand years ago has been the source of inspiration for countless poets and musicians, as well as practitioners of other forms of art. The infant, born of a virgin in a lowly cattle shed, because there was no room in the inn; the angel of the Lord appearing to shepherds in the field and bringing them tidings of great joy; three kings, led by a star, bearing their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh: these are elements of the Gospel narrative which have rekindled the imagination of successive creative artists, providing a wealth of vocal and instrumental music with which to celebrate the festival of Christmas.
The music, which is sung and played today in Christian churches and in concert halls, spans several centuries and embraces many styles, ranging from elaborate works such as the Weihnachts-Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio) by Johann Sebastian Bach and L’enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ) by Hector Berlioz to simple hymns and carols.
With their typical clean, vital, buoyant style, Neville Marriner and the Academy bring a liveliness and joy to this selection, which begins and ends with the sound of church bells, and interweaves favourite carols with Christmas classics by Bach and Berlioz.
1 Church Bells – Past Three a Clock
2 O Come, All Ye Faithful
3 Dino Dong! Merrily on High
4 In the Bleak Midwinter
5 BACH Christmas Oratorio: Sinfonia
6 Once in Royal David’s City
7 Sussex Carol
8 Quelle est cette odeur agréable?
9 Il est né le divin enfant
10 BERLIOZ L’enfance du Christ: L’adieu des bergers à la Sainte Famille
11 BERLIOZ L’enfance du Christ: Le repos de la Sainte Famille
12 Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
13 Stille Nacht
14 Still, still, still
15 Singt und klingt
16 The Holly and the Ivy
17 The Three Kings
18 Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
19 Away in a Manger
20 Christmas Song (Personent hodie)
21 In dulci jubilo
22 Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
23 Hark! The Herald-angels Sing – Church bells
Academy & Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields
Sir Neville Marriner
Recording producer: Erik Smith
Recording engineers: Jan Wesselink, Roger de Schot, Keiichiro Mori
Recording location: St John’s, Smith Square, London, UK, January 1994