Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto (Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8) often turns up on classical Christmas music albums. And I admit I never quite understood why. To my ears, there wasn’t anything especially Christmassy about it.
That’s what makes this release so welcome. The liner notes explain the aesthetic behind these Italian Baroque Christmas concertos. And the album presents four examples that demonstrate that aesthetic.
In the early 1700s, Italian Christmas Eve services focused on the pastoral elements of the Nativity; the shepherds in the fields, the quiet of the evening, and the animals in the manger.
Music composed for that service evoked that pastoral mood with quiet music and folk-like melodies. Simplicity was also important, even for solo parts.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen specializes in Baroque repertoire. Under his direction, the Concerto Copenhagen revealed new insights into Corelli’s “Christmas” concerto.
Corelli’s work provided the template for other Italian composers to follow, and Mortensen underlines those connections.
Locatelli most closely emulated Corelli. His Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op. 1, No. 8 has eight movements, the last being a pastorale.
Vivaldi and Manfredini’s Christmas concertos are simpler — both have only three movements. But the pastoral sound is still there.
These are excellent performances. So even if you’re not especially interested in Christmas music, you can enjoy these Baroque concertos any time of year.
Per la Notte di Natale: Italian Christmas Concertos
Arcangelo Corelli; Giuseppe Torelli; Antonio Vivaldi; Francesco Manfredini; Pietro Locatelli
Concerto Copenhagen; Lars Ulrick Mortensen