The Christmas Oratorio (German: Weihnachts-Oratorium), BWV 248, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 and incorporates music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a now lost church cantata, BWV 248a. The date is confirmed in Bach's autograph manuscript. The next performance was not until 17 December 1857 by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin under Eduard Grell. The Christmas Oratorio is a particularly sophisticated example of parody music. The author of the text is unknown, although a likely collaborator was Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander).
The work belongs to a group of three oratorios written towards the end of Bach's career in 1734 and 1735 for major feasts, the others being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249). All parody earlier compositions, although the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work.
The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The piece is often presented as a whole or split into two equal parts. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours.
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.
The structure of the story is defined to a large extent by the particular requirements of the church calendar for Christmas 1734/35. Bach abandoned his usual practice when writing church cantatas of basing the content upon the Gospel reading for that day in order to achieve a coherent narrative structure. Were he to have followed the calendar, the story would have unfolded as follows:
- Birth and Annunciation to the Shepherds
- The Adoration of the Shepherds
- Prologue to the Gospel of John
- Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
- The Flight into Egypt
- The Coming and Adoration of the Magi
This would have resulted in the Holy Family fleeing before the Magi had arrived, which was unsuitable for an oratorio evidently planned as a coherent whole. Bach removed the content for the Third Day of Christmas (December 27), John's Gospel, and split the story of the two groups of visitors—Shepherds and Magi—into two. This resulted in a more understandable exposition of the Christmas story:
- The Birth
- The Annunciation to the Shepherds
- The Adoration of the Shepherds
- The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
- The Journey of the Magi
- The Adoration of the Magi
The Flight into Egypt takes place after the end of the sixth part.
That Bach saw the six parts as comprising a greater, unified whole is evident both from the surviving printed text and from the structure of the music itself. The edition has not only a title—Weihnachtsoratorium—connecting together the six sections, but these sections are also numbered consecutively. As John Butt has mentioned, this points, as in the Mass in B minor, to a unity beyond the performance constraints of the church year.
The oratorio was written for performance on six feast days of Christmas during the winter of 1734 and 1735. The original score also contains details of when each part was performed. It was incorporated within services of the two most important churches in Leipzig, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. As can be seen below, the work was only performed in its entirety at the St. Nicholas Church.
- 25 December 1734: Part I – 'early in the morning' at St. Nicholas; 'in the afternoon' at St. Thomas
- 26 December 1734: Part II – morning at St. Thomas; afternoon at St. Nicholas
- 27 December 1734: Part III – morning at St. Nicholas
- 1 January 1735: Part IV – morning at St. Thomas; afternoon at St. Nicholas
- 2 January 1735: Part V – morning at St Nicholas
- 6 January 1735: Part VI – morning at St. Thomas; afternoon at St. Nicholas
Bach expresses the unity of the whole work within the music itself, in part through his use of key signatures. Parts I and III are written in the keys of D major, part II in its subdominant key G major. Parts I and III are similarly scored for exuberant trumpets, while the Pastoral Part II (referring to the Shepherds) is, by contrast, scored for woodwind instruments and does not include an opening chorus. Part IV is written in F major (the relative key to D minor) and marks the furthest musical point away from the oratorio's opening key, scored for horns. Bach then embarks upon a journey back to the opening key, via the dominant A major of Part V to the jubilant re-assertion of D major in the final part, lending an overall arc to the piece. To reinforce this connection, between the beginning and the end of the work, Bach re-uses the chorale melody of Part I's Wie soll ich dich empfangen? in the final chorus of Part VI, Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen; this choral melody is the same as of O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, which Bach used five times in his St Matthew Passion.
The music represents a particularly sophisticated expression of the parody technique, by which existing music is adapted to a new purpose. Bach took the majority of the choruses and arias from works which had been written some time earlier. Most of this music was 'secular', that is written in praise of royalty or notable local figures, outside the tradition of performance within the church.
These secular cantatas which provide the basis for the Christmas Oratorio, are:
- BWV 213 – Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen (Hercules at the Crossroads)
- Performed on 5 September 1733 for the eleventh birthday of Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony.
- BWV 214 – Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!
- Performed on 8 December 1733 for the birthday of Maria Josepha, Queen of Poland and Electress of Saxony.
- BWV 215 – Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen
- Performed on 5 October 1734 for the coronation of the Elector of Saxony August III as King of Poland.
In addition to these sources, the sixth cantata is thought to have been taken almost entirely from a now-lost church cantata, BWV 248a. The trio aria in Part V Ach, wenn wird die Zeit erscheinen? is believed to be from a similarly lost source, and the chorus from the same section Wo ist der neugeborne König is from the 1731 St Mark Passion (BWV 247).
The scoring below refers to parts, rather than necessarily to individual players. Adherents of theories specifying small numbers of performers (even to 'One Voice Per Part') may however choose to use numbers approaching one instrument per named part.
- Part I
- 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 Oboe d'amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo group[I 1][I 2]
- Part II
- 2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 Oboe da caccia, 2 violins, viola, continuo
- Part III
- 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo
- Part IV
- 2 horns, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, continuo
- Part V
- 2 oboe d'amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo
- Part VI
- 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo
- The continuo part is open to interpretation in matters of scoring. Examples: for his 1973 recording, Nikolaus Harnoncourt employed bassoon, violoncello, violone (double bass) and organ; Peter Schreier (1987) used violoncello, double bass, bassoon, organ and harpsichord; René Jacobs in 1997 chose violoncello, double bass, lute, bassoon, organ and harpsichord; and Jos van Veldhoven in 2003 opted for violoncello, double bass, bassoon, organ, harpsichord and theorbo.
- The different types of oboes referred to above are mostly called for at different points in each section. However, numbers 10, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 and 21 in Part II call for 2 oboe d'amore and 2 oboe da caccia. This scoring was intended to symbolise the shepherds who are the subject of the second part. It is a reference to the pastoral music tradition of shepherds playing shawm-like instruments at Christmas. Similarly, the pastoral sinfony in Handel's Messiah (1741) is known as the 'Pifa' after the Italian piffero or piffaro, similar to the shawm and an ancestor of the oboe.
The ease with which the new text fits the existing music is one of the indications of how successful a parody the Christmas Oratorio is of its sources. Musicologist Alfred Dürr and others, such as Christoph Wolff have suggested that Bach's sometime collaborator Picander (the pen name of Christian Friedrich Henrici) wrote the new text, working closely with Bach to ensure a perfect fit with the re-used music. It may have even been the case that the Christmas Oratorio was already planned when Bach wrote the secular cantatas BWV 213, 214 and 215, given that the original works were written fairly close to the oratorio and the seamless way with which the new words fit the existing music.
Nevertheless, on two occasions Bach abandoned the original plan and was compelled to write new music for the Christmas Oratorio. The alto aria in Part III, Schließe, mein Herze was originally to have been set to the music for the aria Durch die von Eifer entflammten Waffen from BWV 215. On this occasion, however, the parody technique proved to be unsuccessful and Bach composed the aria afresh. Instead, he used the model from BWV 215 for the bass aria Erleucht' auch meine finstre Sinnnen in Part V. Similarly, the opening chorus to Part V, Ehre sei dir Gott! was almost certainly intended to be set to the music of the chorus Lust der Völker, Lust der Deinen from BWV 213, given the close correspondence between the texts of the two pieces. The third major new piece of writing (with the notable exception of the recitatives), the sublime pastoral Sinfonia which opens Part II, was composed from scratch for the new work.
In addition to the new compositions listed above, special mention must go to the recitatives, which knit together the oratorio into a coherent whole. In particular, Bach made particularly effective use of recitative when combining it with chorales in no. 7 of part I (Er ist auf Erden kommen arm) and even more ingeniously in the recitatives nos. 38 and 40 which frame the "Echo Aria" (Flößt, mein Heiland), no. 39 in part IV.
Until 1999 the only complete English version of the Christmas Oratorio was that prepared in 1874 by John Troutbeck for the music publisher Novello. A new edition has been worked up by Neil Jenkins.
Parts and numbers
By notational convention the recitatives are in common time. Less conventional is Bach's use of key signatures in these freely modulating passages; for example, No. 27 retains the three-sharp continues key signature of the previous movement while modulating from c♯ minor to A major.
|1||Chorus||D major||3/8||Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage||3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings (violin I, II, viola) and continuo (cello, violone, organ and bassoon)||BWV 214: Chorus, Tönet, ihr Pauken!|
|2||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit||Continuo||Luke 2:1-6|
|3||Recitative (alto)||Nun wird mein liebster Bräutigam||2 oboe d'amore, continuo|
|4||Aria (alto)||A min||3/8||Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben||Oboe d'amore I, violin I, continuo||BWV 213: Aria, Ich will dich nicht hören|
|5||Chorale||A minor||Common||Wie soll ich dich empfangen||2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings and continuo||Words: Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676)|
|6||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn||Continuo||Luke 2:7|
|Er ist auf Erden kommen arm
Wer will die Liebe recht erhöhn
|2 oboe d'amore, continuo||Words (Chorale): Martin Luther, 1524|
|8||Aria (bass)||D major||2/4||Großer Herr und starker König||Trumpet I, flute I, strings, continuo||BWV 214: Aria, Kron und Preis gekrönter Damen|
|9||Chorale||D major||Common||Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein!||3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings and continuo (cello, violone, organ and bassoon)||Words: Martin Luther, 1535|
|10||Sinfonia||G major||12/8||—||2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo|
|11||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend||Continuo||Luke 2:8-9|
|12||Chorale||G major||Common||Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht||2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo||Words: Johann von Rist, 1641|
|13||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor; Angel, soprano)||Und der Engel sprach zu ihnen
Fürchtet euch nicht
|Strings, continuo||Luke 2:10-11|
|14||Recitative (bass)||Was Gott dem Abraham verheißen||2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo|
|15||Aria (tenor)||E minor||3/8||Frohe Hirten, eilt, ach eilet||Flute I, continuo||BWV 214: Aria, Fromme Musen! meine Glieder|
|16||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)[II 1]||Und das habt zum Zeichen||Continuo||Luke 2:12|
|17||Chorale||C major||Common||Schaut hin! dort liegt im finstern Stall||2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo||Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1667|
|18||Recitative (bass)||So geht denn hin!||2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo|
|19||Aria (alto)||G maj/E min||2/4||Schlafe, mein Liebster, genieße der Ruh'||Flute I (colla parte an octave above the alto soloist throughout), 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo||BWV 213: Aria, Schlafe, mein Liebster, und pflege der Ruh|
|20||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und alsobald war da bei dem Engel||Continuo||Luke 2:13|
|21||Chorus||G major||Split Common (2/2)||Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe||2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo||Luke 2:14|
|22||Recitative (bass)||So recht, ihr Engel, jauchzt und singet||Continuo|
|23||Chorale||G major||12/8||Wir singen dir in deinem Heer||2 flutes, 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo||Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1656|
- In some performances sung by the Angel (soprano).
|24||Chorus||D major||3/8||Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen||Trumpet I, II, III, timpani, flute I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 214: Chorus, Blühet, ihr Linden in Sachsen, wie Zedern|
|25||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren||Continuo||Luke 2:15|
|26||Chorus||A major||3/4||Lasset uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem||Flute I, II, oboe d'amore I, II, strings, continuo|
|27||Recitative (bass)||Er hat sein Volk getröst't||Flute I, II, continuo|
|28||Chorale||D major||Common||Dies hat er alles uns getan||Flute I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||Chorale: Martin Luther, 1524|
|29||Duet (soprano, bass)||A major||3/8||Herr, dein Mitleid, dein Erbarmen||Oboe d'amore I, II, continuo||BWV 213: Aria, Ich bin deine, du bist meine|
|30||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und sie kamen eilend||Continuo||Luke 2:16-19|
|31||Aria (alto)||D maj/B min||2/4||Schließe, mein Herze, dies selige Wunder||Violin solo, continuo|
|32||Recitative (alto)||Ja, ja! mein Herz soll es bewahren||Flute I, II, continuo|
|33||Chorale||G major||Common||Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren||Flute I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1653|
|34||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und die Hirten kehrten wieder um||Continuo||Luke 2:20|
|35||Chorale||F♯ minor||Common||Seid froh, dieweil||Flute I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Christoph Runge, 1653|
|24||Chorus da capo||D major||3/8||Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen||Trumpet I, II, III, timpani, flute I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 214: Chorus, Blühet, ihr Linden in Sachsen, wie Zedern|
|36||Chorus||F major||3/8||Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben||Horns I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 213: Chorus, Lasst uns sorgen, lasst uns wachen|
|37||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und da acht Tage um waren||Continuo||Luke 2:21|
|Immanuel, o süßes Wort
Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben
|39||Aria (soprano & 'Echo' soprano)||C major||6/8||Flößt, mein Heiland, flößt dein Namen||Oboe I solo, continuo||BWV 213: Aria, Treues Echo dieser Orten|
|Wohlan! dein Name soll allein
Jesu, meine Freud' und Wonne
|41||Aria (tenor)||D minor||Common||Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben||Violin I, II, continuo||BWV 213: Aria, Auf meinen Flügeln sollst du schweben|
|42||Chorale||F major||3/4||Jesus richte mein Beginnen||Horns I, II, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Johann von Rist, 1642|
|43||Chorus||A maj/F♯ min||3/4||Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen||Oboe d'amore I, II, strings, continuo|
|44||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Da Jesus geboren war zu Bethlehem||Continuo||Matthew 2:1|
|D major||Common||Wo ist der neugeborne König der Juden[V 2]
Sucht ihn in meiner Brust
Wir haben seinen Stern gesehen
|Oboe d'amore I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 247: St Mark Passion, Chorus,
Pfui dich, wie fein zerbrichst du den Tempel
|46||Chorale||A major||Common||Dein Glanz all' Finsternis verzehrt||Oboe d'amore I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Georg Weissel, 1642|
|47||Aria (bass)||F♯ minor||2/4||Erleucht' auch meine finstre Sinnen||Oboe d'amore I solo, organ senza continuo||BWV 215: Aria, Durch die von Eifer entflammeten Waffen|
|48||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Da das der König Herodes hörte||Continuo||Matthew 2:3|
|49||Recitative (alto)||Warum wollt ihr erschrecken||Strings, continuo|
|50||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und ließ versammeln alle Hohenpriester||Continuo||Matthew 2:4-6|
|51||Trio (sopr., alto, ten.)||B minor||2/4||Ach! wann wird die Zeit erscheinen?||Violin I solo, continuo||unknown|
|52||Recitative (alto)||Mein Liebster herrschet schon||Continuo|
|53||Chorale||A major||Common||Zwar ist solche Herzensstube||Oboe d'amore I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Johann Franck, 1655|
- Part V is meant to be performed on the first Sunday in the New Year, but before the feast of Epiphany on 6 January. In some years, there is no such day, e.g in 2007/2008.
- Matthew 2:2
|54||Chorus||D major||3/8||Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben||Trumpet I, II, III, timpani, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|55||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor; Herod, bass)||Da berief Herodes die Weisen heimlich
Ziehet hin und forschet fleißig
|56||Recitative (soprano)||Du Falscher, suche nur den Herrn zu fällen||Strings, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|57||Aria (soprano)||A maj/F♯ min/A maj||3/4||Nur ein Wink von seinen Händen||Oboe d'amore I, strings, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|58||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Als sie nun den König gehöret hatten||Continuo||Matthew 2:9-11|
|59||Chorale||G major||Common||Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier||Oboe I, II, strings, continuo||Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1656|
|60||Recitative (Evangelist, tenor)||Und Gott befahl ihnen im Traum'||Continuo||Matthew 2:12|
|61||Recitative (tenor)||So geht! Genug, mein Schatz geht nicht von hier||Oboe d'amore I, II, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|62||Aria (tenor)||B minor||2/4||Nun mögt ihr stolzen Feinde schrecken||Oboe d'amore I, II, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|63||Recitative (soprano, alto, tenor, bass)||Was will der Höllen Schrecken nun||Continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata)|
|64||Chorale||D major||Common||Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen||Trumpet I, II, III, timpani, oboe I, II, strings, continuo||BWV 248a (lost church cantata); Words: Georg Werner, 1648|
- 1955: Fritz Lehmann, Helmut Krebs (tenor), Sieglinde Wagner (alto), Heinz Rehfuss (bass), Gunthild Weber (soprano), Berliner Motettenchor, RIAS Kammerchor, Berlin Philharmonic, Archiv Produktion
- 1958: Kurt Thomas, Josef Traxel (tenor), Marga Höffgen (alto), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Agnes Giebel (soprano), Thomanerchor, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Leipzig Classics/Seraphim Records. Recorded in St. Thomas Church, Leipzig.
- 1963: Fritz Werner, Helmut Krebs, Claudia Hellmann, Barry McDaniel, Agnes Giebel, Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn, Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra, Erato.
- 1965: Karl Richter, Fritz Wunderlich (tenor), Christa Ludwig (alto), Franz Crass (bass), Gundula Janowitz (soprano), Münchener Bach-Chor, Münchener Bach-Orchester, ARCHIV Produktion
- 1967: Karl Münchinger, Peter Pears (tenor), Helen Watts (alto), Tom Krause (bass), Elly Ameling (soprano), Lübecker Knaben-Kantorei, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester. Decca. Recorded in Schloss Ludwigsburg.
- 1973: Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden, Theo Altmeyer (tenor), Andreas Stein (alto), Barry McDaniel (baritone), Hans Buchhierl (soprano), Tölzer Knabenchor, Collegium Aureum. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi GD77046. This recording uses a tuning where the pitch of the note A is set to a semitone below today's standard of A=440 Hz.
- 1973: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Kurt Equiluz (tenor), Paul Esswood (countertenor), Siegmund Nimsgern (bass), Wiener Sängerknaben, Concentus Musicus Wien. Teldec – Das Alte Werk 9031-77610-2
- 1974: Martin Flämig, Peter Schreier (tenor), Annelies Burmeister (alto), Arleen Augér (soprano), Theo Adam (bass), Dresdner Kreuzchor, Dresden Philharmonic. Berlin Classics BER 183892
- 1987: John Eliot Gardiner, Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor, Evangelist), Anne Sofie von Otter (alto), Olaf Bär (bass), Hans Peter Blochwitz (tenor), Nancy Argenta (soprano), Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists. Archiv Produktion 4232322
- 1989: Philippe Herreweghe, Howard Crook (tenor), Michael Chance (alto), Peter Kooy (bass), Barbara Schlick (soprano), Collegium Vocale Gent. Virgin Classics Veritas 90781 or 0777 7595302 2
- 1991 Karl-Friedrich Beringer, Markus Schäfer, Juliane Banse, Cornelia Kallisch, Robert Swensen, Thomas Quasthoff, Windsbacher Knabenchor, Münchner Bachsolisten, Teldec 1991
- 1993: Harry Christophers, Michael George (bass), Lynda Russell (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (contralto), Mark Padmore (tenor), Libby Crabtree (soprano Angel, Echo), The Sixteen. Collins Classics
- 1996: Ton Koopman, Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Elisabeth von Magnus (alto), Lisa Larsson (soprano), Klaus Mertens (bass), Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir. Erato Records 0630-14635-2
- 1997: Philip Pickett, New London Consort; Paul Agnew (tenor, Evangelist), Michael Chance, Michael George (bass), Andrew King (tenor), Catherine Bott (soprano); plus 7 other soloists making up the chorus. Decca 458 838
- 1997: René Jacobs, Werner Güra (tenor), Andreas Scholl (alto), Klaus Häger (bass), Dorothea Röschmann (soprano), RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Harmonia Mundi, 2901630.31
- 1999: John Eliot Gardiner, Christoph Genz (tenor), Bernarda Fink (alto), Dietrich Henschel (bass), Claron McFadden (soprano), Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists. Arthaus Musik TDK DVD-BACHHO. This recording is used in the film Juloratoriet (1996) (English title: Christmas Oratorio).
- 2000: Helmuth Rilling, James Taylor (Evangelist), Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (alto), Marcus Ullmann (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass), Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Hänssler Classic
- 2003: Jos van Veldhoven, Gerd Türk (tenor), Annette Markert (alto), Peter Harvey (bass), Johannette Zomer (soprano), De Nederlandse Bachvereniging. Channel Classics Records CCS SA 20103
- 2007: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Werner Güra (tenor), Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano), Gerald Finley (baritone), Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Christine Schäfer (soprano), Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Concentus Musicus Wien. Recorded at the Wiener Musikverein; Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 8869 711225 2
- 2008: Ralf Otto, Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Monica Groop (alto), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass), Vokalensemble Frankfurt, Concerto Köln. Delta Music
- 2009: Georg Christoph Biller, Paul Bernewitz and Friedrich Praetorius (Boy soprano), Ingeborg Danz (alto), Martin Petzold and Christoph Genz (tenor), Panajotis Iconomou (bass), Thomanerchor Leipzig, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Rondeau Production
- Sleeve notes to Philip Pickett's recording of the Christmas Oratorio (Decca, 458 838, 1997)
- Werner Breig, sleeve notes to John Eliot Gardiner's recording of the Christmas Oratorio (Deutsche Grammophon Archiv, 4232322, 1987)
- Das Alte Werk (Warner), 2564698540 (1973, re-released 2008)
- Decca (Philips), 4759155 (1987, re-released 2007)
- Harmonia Mundi, HMX 2901630.31 (1997, re-released 2004)
- Channel Classics Records, CCS SA 20103 (2003)
- Alfred Dürr, sleeve notes to Nikolaus Harnoncourt's first recording of the Christmas Oratorio (Warner Das Alte Werk, 2564698540, 1972, p. 10) and repeated in the notes to Harnoncourt's 2nd recording of the work (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 88697112252, 2007, p. 22)
- Christoph Wolff, sleeve notes to Ton Koopman's recording of the Christmas Oratorio (Warner Erato, 0630-14635-2, 1997)
- Background note by Neil Jenkins on his translation of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, 1999
- Juloratoriet (1996) at the Internet Movie Database
- Christmas Oratorio (Rilling, 2000) review
- Complete text (in German) and instrumentation: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI
- Bach Cantatas Website: Details, recordings & reviews
- Donald Satz: A Bottomless Bucket of Bach – Christmas Oratorio (April 2000): Details & comparison of four recordings
- Christmas Oratorio: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project