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Christmas Classical to Add to Your Playlists

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Looking for some Christmas classical music to add to your playlists this December? We've selected 5 seasonal works for 4 different categories: instrumental, choral, operatic, and art song!



  • Tchaikovsky's magical ballet "The Nutcracker" is a Christmas classic, and the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is one of the most recognisable excerpts!

  • Josef Strauss was a member of the famous Strauss family of composers, and knew how to write great dance music, too! The polka "Winterlust" brings the magic of the winter season to life.

  • Debussy dedicated the "Children's Corner" piano suite to his three-year-old daughter Claude-Emma "Chou-Chou". Listen to the piano emulating the dancing snow!

  • Saint-Saëns' "Oratorio de Noël" is a sacred oratorio work. The "Prélude" introduction is inspired by Bach, and sets up the Christmas mood beautifully!

  • Coleridge-Taylor wrote incidental music (which was never performed) for "The Forest of Wild Thyme" - a ‘charming poetical fairy drama’ for children. The "Christmas Overture" was arranged by Sydney Baynes and probably derived from this work.



  • One of the most frequently performed holiday works, Handel's "Messiah" is full of Christmas-appropriate excerpts. The joyous "For Unto Us A Child Is Born" is our choice for this list!

  • The fifth movement from Rachmaninoff's "All Night Vigil" (Vespers) is a version of the "Nunc dimittis" (the Song of Simeon), based on the Biblical story of Simeon meeting the baby Jesus.

  • There are choral arrangements of most traditional Christmas songs and carols, and many were originally composed for choral performance. "In the bleak midwinter" is a beautiful, simple setting by Holst of Christina Rossetti's poem.

  • Bach's "Weihnachstoratorium" has many great choral moments. The opening "Jauchzet, frohlocket! Auf, preiset die Tage" (Shout for joy, exult, rise up, praise the day) is jubilant and dramatic!

  • "Bethlehem Down" is a beautiful choral anthem/carol by Peter Warlock and also exists as a solo song. Warlock and poet Bruce Blunt were struggling financially, and this piece funded their "immortal carouse" (heavy bout of drinking) on Christmas Eve 1927. It won a carol composing contest.



  • Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" was an opera composed for radio. It quickly became a beloved holiday work, enjoyed annually by listeners, and turned into film and stage versions.

  • Pfitzner's opera "Das Christ-Elflein (The Little Elf of Christ) was originally premiered as incidental music to a Christmas play by Ilse von Stach. It was later revised by the composer into a two-act opera.

  • Adams' "El Niño" is a contemporary (2008) opera-oratorio retelling of the Christmas story. It is based on the Biblical narrative, with excerpts and influences from other sources.

  • This one is not very festive - the title character Werther in Massenet's opera dies by self-inflicted gunshots as the children outside celebrate Christmas.

  • Heggie's opera is based on the Frank Capra film of the same name and and “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. It premiered in 2016.


Art song

  • Madame Eustache has 17 daughters. When the girls are asked what they want for Christmas, they respond that they want a little sister!

  • Toys magically come to life, enchanted by the nativity crèche!

  • "Noël", or "Trois anges sont venus ce soir" (Three angels came tonight), is a setting of a poem by the composer herself, about an angelic visit.

  • Wolf's Lied (song) is one of two settings in this list of a poem by Lope de Vega, translated by Emanuel Geibel. During a storm, Mary requests that nature be silent so her child can sleep.

  • This setting of the same text is by Brahms, and is the second in a set of two songs by the composer for voice, piano, and viola.


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