Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Magnificat - PS Audio
Classical Gifts 2015
Hands down, my first choice this year would be Bach: Magnificat & Christmas Cantata from organist-conductor John Butt and the Dunedin Consort & Players (Linn CKD 469). The idea was to recreate the very first celebration of Christmas Vespers that Bach led in Leipzig on December 25, 1723. This was traditionally a big day in the Lutheran calendar, and he didn't want to disappoint. Besides the Magnificat in its original E-flat version with four interpolated Christmas hymns, Bach offered the festive Cantata 63, "Christen, ätzet diesen Tag":
Both of the big multi-movement works get sparkling, energetic performances. There's also organ music (Bach, of course!), some congregational hymn singing, and a Gabrieli motet to kick things off, just as they may have done in 1723. (See the detailed booklet notes regarding the historical background.) Here's a bit of "Vom Himmel hoch," one of the four interpolated hymn settings.