In the past, I've written about Classical Music for Christmas, listing some beautiful classical pieces that are a great antidote to repetitive Christmas classics. This year, I've discovered more excellent pieces that are worth checking out, for anyone who wants some different music for Christmas this year.
1. Christmas Mass by Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis is a fascinating English composer who lived during the tumultuous reigns of the Tudors, including Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. His Christmas mass was likely composed during the reign of Mary I for a grand occasion, though historians don't know what the exact occasion was. It's a beautiful example of Renaissance music--pure gorgeous singing and elaborate polyphony. As someone who loves Renaissance music and Christmas, this is a great piece to celebrate the season.
2. J. S. Bach's Christmas Cantatas
I've written before about Bach's lovely Christmas Oratorio, but he also wrote several Christmas Cantatas, which are arranged for different days of the Lutheran Christmas celebration. I love this music--it's joyful and haunting by turns, with a wide variety of soloists and orchestrations. In the cantata "Christen, atzet diesen Tag," Bach makes beautiful use of the oboe, which weaves among the vocalists and a solo violin during the third movement duet, creating a lovely four-part polyphony. Truthfully, I enjoyed these cantatas even more than the Christmas Oratorio, perhaps because the music seemed lighter and more joyful, but with all the grace and beauty of Bach at his best. I'd recommend them to anyone who loves classical music.
3. Dance of the Tumblers, from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden
I played this energetic, exciting piece for the first time at the Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular. It was definitely a challenge to play all the notes--it's quite fast! But once I learned the notes, it was fun to play, and it had a great manic energy that seems well suited to Christmas (Christmas shopping, in particular). So if you want stimulating, exciting music that makes you want to move, this is the classical Christmas piece for you.