The king of the Baroque composing for the Redeemer of the World? That has to be music right out of the top drawer!
Profane birthday cantatas are said to be the basis for Bach's 'Christmas Oratorio'. Some critics pan it as a "stopgap work born of deadline stress". Others point to the historical context of consumption: such profane, occasional compositions were, by definition, destined for a short life; by interweaving them with new material to produce religious works with a broader basis, Bach was at least able to save some of those expensive sheets of manuscript paper.
The 'Christmas Oratorio' in any case pushed the art of parody to new heights. In a work of six semi-linked sections, intended for the feast days between Christmas and Twelfth Night, Bach unfolds a persuasive narrative carried by the evangelist.
For Philippe Herreweghe, Bach has been a faithful companion through more than forty years of pleasurable music-making. During that time, Collegium Vocale performances have come to be the benchmark for Bach interpretations: vocal transparency illuminates the counterpoint and sonorous homogeneity provides a velvety foundation for Bach's brilliant harmonies.