The best classical performances of Christmas 2016 – from the Messiah to an Orkney Wedding

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, while the Hallé brings Handel’s glorious oratorio to Manchester

An Orkney Wedding, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Edinburgh and Glasgow

One of the year’s greatest musical losses was the death, in March, of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the composer who made his home and creative base in the Orkney Islands with a programme that features one of his best-loved compositions – An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise – as well as his second Strathclyde concerto. The soloist is William Conway, who premiered the work with the composer in 1989; rising star Alexandre Bloch conducts a programme that also includes Sibelius and Bartók.
1 December, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. 2 December, City Hall, Glasgow, sco.org.uk

Messiah
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

As festive as mince pies and the EastEnders Christmas special, Handel’s oratorio was, of course, written for Easter, and it is far from proven that George II ever attended a performance, let alone stood up during the famous Hallelujah chorus. But don’t let that spoil your enjoyment of what has long since become a fixture of Christmas schedules. This performance, with baroque specialist Christian Curnyn conducting the Hallé orchestra and choir, promises to be fine, with Curnyn’s attention to detail and wit bringing a freshness to Handel’s familiar score.
3 December, bridgewater-hall.co.uk

Der Rosenkavalier
Royal Opera House, London

A real Christmas treat comes to the Royal Opera House in the shape of a new staging of Strauss’s charming comedy Der Rosenkavalier. Robert Carsen directs, and the great American soprano Renée Fleming plays the Marschallin, one of her signature roles. Double casting means she alternates with Rachel Willis-Sorensen, while mezzos Alice Coote and Anna Stephany share the trouser role of Octavian, her young lover. There’s star wattage in the pit, too, with Andris Nelsons conducting Strauss’s luminous music.
From 17 December-24 January, roh.org.uk. The performance on 14 January will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

The Sixteen at Christmas
Cardiff and touring

This year’s seasonal tour by the outstanding choral group travels from Rutland to Reading, with music inspired by the story of the three kings. Traditional carols sit alongside contemporary compositions, Renaissance masterpieces and Peter Warlock’s hauntingly beautiful Bethlehem Down, a carol written by a practising druid and his drinking companion and poet friend Bruce Blunt. They submitted it to a Daily Telegraph carol competition because they wanted the winnings to fund a drinking spree – in which they duly indulged.

Various venues, including Cardiff, Nottingham, Oxford and London.
From 3-22 December, thesixteen.com

Carol concerts
Nationwide

Every cathedral and church in the country hosts a carol concert in the week before Christmas. Few are ticketed, but check for details, since many – particularly at the grander cathedrals – are very popular. Venues don’t get much grander than King’s College, Cambridge, whose traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (bible readings interspersed with music) on Christmas Eve signals the beginning of Christmas for millions across the world. A specially commissioned new carol always features: Michael Berkeley has written this year’s, and the service will also include music by his father, Lennox, alongside works by Michael Praetorius, John Tavener and Herbert Howells. If you don’t mind queuing, you can join the line (“a day or so before” says Kings, wonderfully vaguely) for one of the 600 public tickets. Music director Stephen Cleobury ensures that the music is as exquisite as the surroundings.
Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, King’s College, Cambridge, 24 December, kings.cam.ac.uk. Broadcast live on BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service and across the US  and Canada on local radio stations

Contributor

Imogen Tilden

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The culture Christmas gift guide 2016
Swig a New Order beer, grab your Miss Piggy clutch, light that Rihanna prayer candle and gather round the Death Star fire pit … whatever your cultural bent, these suggestions will put some yo in your ho ho

12, Nov, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
The best pop and rock gigs of Christmas 2016 – from Madness to the Chemical Brothers
The Nutty Boys and the oldest ravers in town pull out all the stops for a seasonal smackdown

Michael Hann

14, Nov, 2016 @1:30 PM

Article image
All life is here: the must-see classical performances of 2017
BBCNOW celebrates modern musical pioneers, there’s a rare chance to taste Birtwistle’s Last Supper – and the LPO explores what it means to be human

Imogen Tilden

07, Jan, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
The best dance shows of Christmas 2016 – from the Nutcracker to Hansel and Gretel
Walk among pirouetting dancers or get drawn into the world of a breakdancing wolf this season

Judith Mackrell

13, Nov, 2016 @2:00 PM

Article image
The UK's best music festivals for classical fans
Rising talent shines this summer, as Aldeburgh pays tribute to Benjamin Britten and Cheltenham welcomes a wealth of living composers

Imogen Tilden

06, May, 2017 @5:00 AM

Article image
The best classical festivals in the UK for 2016
Exciting, innovative concerts abound this season – and not just at established giants such as Edinburgh and the Proms

Imogen Tilden

21, May, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Five of the best classical concerts for Christmas 2015
Magical adaptations of Pullman and Dickens – and the pick of the Messiahs

Imogen Tilden

06, Dec, 2015 @5:30 PM

Article image
The best theatre of Christmas 2016 – from The Star to Strictly Ballroom and Black Beauty
Christmas theatre needn’t mean panto – check out human cannonballs and escapologists, biting comedy and Luhrmann adaptations

Lyn Gardner

12, Nov, 2016 @1:30 PM

Article image
The best carol services this Christmas – from the Sixteen to Ore Oduba
See Grimethorpe Brass Band on home turf, Opus Anglicanum at Wells Cathedral, hop aboard for carols on the South Devon Railway, or sing along with the Strictly champ and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sara Mohr-Pietsch

02, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
The best films of Christmas 2016 – from The Nutcracker to Passengers and Office Christmas Party | Catherine Shoard
Escape the sofa and head out to the big screen for new Star Wars episodes, live screenings of classic ballets and Jennifers Lawrence and Aniston in Christmas blockbusters

Catherine Shoard

13, Nov, 2016 @1:00 PM