30th Jan 2016
Baroque Splendour
  • 30th January 2016 7:30 PM
  • Bach
  • St Andrew's Church, Oxford
Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach Poster


Duncan Saunderson, conductor
The Instruments of Time and TruthLouise Wayman, soprano
Alexander Chance, countertenor
Tom Kelly, tenor
Brian McAlea, bass


The Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is a series of cantatas originally written to be performed in the two most important churches in Leipzig on six different days between Christmas 1734 and the feast of Epiphany in 1735. It incorporates some of the finest movements of several secular cantatas that Bach had already written as birthday or other celebrations. (This performance featured cantatas 1-3 only; cantatas 4-6 will be performed at our concert in January 2017).

‘Nisi Dominus’, a magnificent polyphonic setting for ten voices of Psalm 127, is from Monteverdi’s grand masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610.

‘Plorate filii Israel’ is from Historia di JephteCarissimi’s most widely known oratorio. The work dramatizes the Old Testament tale of Jephthah, a warrior of Gilead who is forced to sacrifice his only daughter to God in recompense for his victory over the Ammonites. The scholar Athanasius Kircher wrote in 1650 of this chorus that it was composed ‘with such skill that you would swear you could hear their sobbings and lamentations’.


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