The Mystical Nativity (detail). Sandro Botticelli c. 1500-1501.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was written for the Christmas season of 1734. The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period.
The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.
Peter Walls takes us through the masterpiece.