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 Recording of the Week  Christmas music worth hearing

I'm after the hidden gems this week, and there are a lot of them which took their inspiration from the Christmas story so, if you're looking for something different from carols to play this year this just might be of interest.

Firstly the disc which started me thinking along these lines - a new recording just out on Naxos of Vaughan William's Christmas Cantata 'Hodie'. The work is a brilliant mosaic of musical styles set to poetry from the most diverse sources including the Bible, Milton and Thomas Hardy. Written in 1953, it has the same vitality, force and inventiveness as the late symphonies and I find it bizarre that it has been neglected for so long.

Written at the opposite end of his career, Saint-Saëns's wrote his Christmas Oratorio in 1858 when he was just 23. Opening with a Prelude subtitled 'In the style of Sebastian Bach' (harkening back to Bach's Christmas Oratorio) it beautifully sets the scene for the Christmas story with its lilting pastoral quality creating images of the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields. Five vocal soloists and chorus then tell the story and celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.

For those with kids, narrator Chris Jarvis and the London Philharmonic Orchestra bring to life Howard Blake's lovely score of The Snowman in a disc which came out last year and sold very well.

Also one of our best sellers from last year was 'A New Joy' with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Paul Hillier. It will almost certainly be all new to you and presents a unique depiction of the Orthodox Nativity as heard throughout Russia and the Ukraine.

And finally for those who think they've heard everything, the Swingle Singers bring their inimitable style to sixteen Christmas favourites in a new disc out this year. Guaranteed to bring a smile to everyones faces their free-flowing, almost scattish jazz interpretations is maybe that missing element that you've been searching for all these years!... or maybe not.

Our Christmas page is now up and running where you can browse this year's new releases, current best sellers, or different collections of works.

Vaughan Williams: Hodie (A Christmas Cantata)

Janice Watson (soprano), Peter Hoare (tenor) & Stephen Gadd (baritone), Guildford Choral Society, St Catherine’s School Choir & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Saint-Saëns: Oratorio de Noël (Christmas Oratorio)

Vocalensemble Rastatt & Les Favorites, Holger Speck

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Howard Blake: The Snowman

Chris Jarvis (narrator), London Philharmonic Orchestra, David Parry

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

The Swingle Singers Unwrapped

Swingle Singers

Available Format: CD