Bach's Christmas Oratorio, unlike the genre “Oratorium” suggests, was not intended for a performance in context, but as a cycle of six individual works that were to be played in the services of the Christmas period as “main music” instead of the cantata. The oratorio was created in 1734. The six parts were, as a preserved text, noted on the three Christmas holidays of the same year and onNew Year's Day, Sunday after New Year (January 2) and Epiphany (17 January 1735) in the Leipzig Main Church St. Nicolai presented, parts I, II, IV and VI also in the Thomaskirche. Probably Bach, if not the whole, so at least parts of the oratorio in later years performed again, but missing on this the news.
In the century and a half since its rediscovery to the public, the Christmas Oratorio has only found its way back to the services ofthe Christmas Circle in exceptional cases; its proper place has long been the public concert, where it is usually performed in a condensed form, occasionally even in double sessions. By far the most widespread form of performance is that of the performance of Parts I-III, which, in terms of content, focus on the actual Christmas scene as well as formally, with their important conclusion inthe key and in the radiant orchestration of the entrance choir, a closed and rounded whole.
The present complete edition of the Christmas Oratorio is an extension of the Edition of 1999, limited to Parts I-III. The musical text of Parts I-III has been reproduced unchanged, except for individual corrections.
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