What is your favorite piece of Christmas choral music? You might answer Handel’s Messiah or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Those are masterpieces. But have you heard the beautiful oratorio for Christmas that was written about a century earlier by the German composer Heinrich Schütz?

The charming Schütz Christmas oratorio (titled “Die Geburt unsers Herren Jesu Christi,” (“The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ”) first performed in 1660, features beautifully defined solos from a group of characters in the Christmas story. One is the angel who urges Joseph to rouse himself and take Mary to Bethlehem for safety. Another is the evil king Herod, who claims that he wants to find the child king so he can worship him. In reality, Herod has far more evil plans. The three wise men also take a bow, and sing a lively trio that asks, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” And the final chorus, “Dank sagen wir alle Gott” (“Now we all give thanks to God”) is a masterpiece in its own right.

If you are a member of Classical Archives, we invite you to listen to a complete Naxos recording of the work. Conductor Jeremy Summerly conducts the Oxford Camerata and a fine cast of soloists.

Heinrich Schuetz