"Who's your favorite composer?" That's the question that classical musicians are probably asked most of all. While I'm not one to play favorites - I genuinely don't have one - the Holidays do always bring me closer to Bach. It's something about the season; the cold weather, the festive attitude, the vibrant colors. Bach's music quite often has a wonderfully festive feeling to it, and in a time of year when Händel gets his due, I feel myself reaching for my Bach scores.
And who can resist the Christmas Oratorio? The great pianist Sviatoslav Richter is known to have adored this piece. He said that the opening tympani strikes sent him "into raptures".
Bach wrote the piece for the Christmas of 1734, and it is broken up into six parts (Cantatas), each part intended to be performed on a different feast day of the Christmas Season: Christmas Day, the annunciation to the shepherds, the adoration of the shepherds, the naming of Jesus, the journey of the Magi, and the adoration of the Magi.
Here's the opening, performed by the Munich Bach Colleguim. Put your Messiah aside and check this out - if this doesn't get you in the Holiday spirit, I don't know what will!