J.S. Bach

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 25

Various Artists – Great Songs of Christmas by Great Artists of Our Time (Album Six) [Columbia Special Products CSS 388, 12″ LP, 1966.]

Great Songs of Christmas frontMerry Christmas! And thanks for following along during these 25 Days of Christmas Records. I hope you enjoyed listening and reading as much I enjoyed putting together this very personal exploration of my eclectic Christmas record collection.

It was no easy task coming up with a record to feature for Christmas Day, but it didn’t take much thought to realize that I had to find something of musical significance, something that’s been with us for a long time and will surely be with us for a long time to come. I knew it had to be something that could convey the joy and majesty and spirit of Christmas Day. And it had to be something in my record collection. So I looked to the great classical composers and found a piece from Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps my favorite composer of them all, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

This recording comes from an album I have in my collection that is part of the multi-volume “Great Songs of Christmas” series produced by Columbia Special Products for the Goodyear company. The Firestone company also produced a similar series of Christmas albums during the 60s and 70s. Here’s a brief rundown of how these albums came to be found everywhere: “When Shopping for Tires Meant Buying a Christmas Album.” If you ever go to a garage sale or estate sale that has Christmas records, you’re likely to seen many volumes of these albums sitting there in the stacks.

Great Songs of Christmas backFor the most part, these albums featured recordings by various pop singers of the day along with some popular orchestras. These are by no means definitive recordings of the classical works that might be included on the albums. But I think this recording of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by famed cellist Pablo Casals with chorus and orchestra is quite nice. If you can read the liner notes from the back of the album, it states that the then 89-year old Casals traveled to New York specifically to record this for the album. Casals’ recordings of Bach’s cello suites are legendary. And this is an incredibly beautiful tune. Bach really was a genius.

(Since we’re talking about classical Christmas music here, I’ll include this NPR piece from 2012 as an aside: “Whatever Happened to the Classical Christmas Album?” Thanks to my friend Scott Gregory for sharing this.)

Here is Pablo Casals performing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” as found on this Great Songs of Christmas album.

And I couldn’t resist including one last song to leave you with as my celebration of Christmas records concludes. I had also wanted to feature a recording of “Joy to the World” from my collection, but they were really all rather lackluster and none of them was satisfactory enough to post here.  So, I fudged a little. Here is a wonderful performance of “Joy to the World” by the Cambridge Singers with the City of London Sinfonia conducted by John Rutter.

Let heaven and nature sing!

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