Playlist: The Best Classical Christmas Albums of 2023

By Oliver Camacho |

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a snow globe placed on a snowbank, with trees and lights out of focus behindWe are delighted to share new interpretations of the music that represents an annual tradition, both festive and spiritual. This year’s playlist also includes recommendations for contemporary works as well as stunning performances of early music, a personal passion.

Album cover for 'Bob Chilcott: Christmas Oratorio', showing an idyllic, sunlit winter scene

Bob Chilcott: Christmas Oratorio

Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano; Nick Pritchard, tenor; Neal Davies, baritone; The Choir of Merton College, Oxford; Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia: Benjamin Nicholas, conductor

Composed in 2019, Bob Chilcott’s Christmas Oratorio is treated to a deluxe recording. The oratorio’s form (hymns, arias, and canticles organized with recitatives) coupled with Chilcott’s musical language make the work highly approachable while still offering a sense of discovery. Link

Album cover for 'Charpentier: Messe de Minuit; In Nativatem Domini Canticum', showing a hand hovering over a candle

Charpentier: Messe de Minuit; In Nativatem Domini Canticum

Ensemble Correspondances: Sébastien Daucé, conductor

In the new release from the superior Ensemble Correspondances, Marc-Antoine Charpentier's intimate Christmas story In nativitatem Domini canticum and masterpiece Messe de Minuit (Midnight Mass) are juxtaposed with the composer’s playful Noëls sur les instruments (Carols for instruments). Link

Album cover for 'A Choral Christmas', with the album title in embossed gold print

A Choral Christmas

VOCES8, VOCES8 Foundation Choir & Orchestra/Barnaby Smith

An album that will surprise VOCES8 fans. The stellar vocal octet is joined by a full choir and orchestra for an extravaganza of favorite carols and holiday music in addition to new works and arrangements. The centerpiece of the album is a large-scale setting of the Magnificat by American composer Taylor Scott Davis. Link

Album cover for 'Christmas from Norway', showing Lise Davidsen in a white winter coat in front of a glowing snow background

Christmas from Norway

Lise Davidsen, soprano; Norwegian Soloists Choir; Norwegian National Opera Children’s Choir; Norwegian Radio Orchestra: Christian Eggen, conductor

This Christmas album by one of classical music’s biggest stars is a dignified affair. The Scandinavian carols with choir sets Lise Davidsen’s apart from other rite-of-passage prima donna holiday albums. Link

Album cover for 'A Golden Christmas', showing artist Felix Klieser dressed in black in front of a black backdrop with large gold text of the album title

A Golden Christmas

Felix Klieser, horn; Vienna Concert Society

German hornist Felix Klieser’s profile rose to international attention after making his debut at this year’s BBC Proms. His newest album is a passion project, offering listeners familiar carols and songs for the season as well as a substantial serving of baroque repertoire, including arias from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah arranged for horn. Link

Album cover for 'Handel Messiah', showing an out of focus image of Jesus with large gold text of the album title

Handel Messiah

Lucy Crowe, soprano; Alex Potter, countertenor; Michael Spyres, tenor; Matthew Brook, bass-baritone; The English Concert & Choir: John Nelson, conductor

American conductor John Nelson (Chicago Bach Project) leads one of the most prominent British period-instrument ensembles and a quartet of stylish soloists, two of whom have previously offered their interpretations of Handel to Chicago audiences (Lucy Crowe for Lyric Opera and Baroque Band; Matthew Brook for Music of the Baroque). Link

Album cover for 'Ellington/Strayhorn: The Nutcracker Suite', showing a colorful illustration of a nutcracker doll, Christmas tree, presents, and toys

The Nutcracker Suite

Chineke! Orchestra: Andrew Grams, conductor

Andrew Grams (former music director of Elgin Symphony Orchestra) leads Chineke!, the first professional European orchestra made up of majority Black and ethnically diverse musicians, in Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s 1960 reworking of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Link

Album cover for 'Rutter Orchestral Carols', showing the cathedral at King's College, Cambridge

Rutter: Orchestral Carols

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge; Britten Sinfonia: Daniel Hyde, conductor

A selection of arrangements of well-known favorites as well as original works for choir and orchestra by a legend in choral music: John Rutter. Performed by the inimitable Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Whet your appetite for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols! Link

Album cover for 'A Winter Breviary: Choral Works for Christmas', showing a snowy forest scene

A Winter Breviary: Choral Works for Christmas

St. Martin’s Voices: Andrew Earls, conductor

An album for those looking for the newest choral music for the season. Taking its title from Reena Esmail’s A Winter Breviary, St. Martin’s Voices also gives stunning performances of works by Cecilia McDowall, Yshani Perinpanayagam, Lucy Walker, Roderick Williams, and other contemporary composers. Link

Album cover for 'Winter Journeys', showing snow-kissed foliage

Winter Journeys

lautten compagney, BERLIN: Wolfgang Katschner, conductor

The Berlin-based early music ensemble lautten compagney takes its highly idiosyncratic approach to 17th century works on the themes of winter, Christmastide, and longing for spring. Featured composers include Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, Andreas Hammerschmidt, Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schütz, and Johann Hermann Schein, in addition to folksongs and just one recognizable carol. Link

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