About this Recording

A Musical Christmas Tour of Austria
With music by George Frideric Handel, Giuseppe Torelli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Onofrio Manfredini, Antonio Vivaldi and Pietro Antonio Locatelli



Steyr: Christ Child Church (Christkindlkirche)

The second largest town in Upper Austria, Steyr has a number of important churches. Among these is the hilltop church dedicated to the Child Jesus, whose image is seen in an elaborate baroque setting. For children this is the home of Father Christmas.

Music Handel: Sinfonia from Messiah

The most famous of Handel’s oratorios and the most unusual was Messiah, written with his usual speed in 1741 for performance first in Dublin, where it was heard in April 1742. The first London performance was in 1743 at Covent Garden, although some doubted the suitability of the subject for a theatre. Its lasting success was assured only in 1750, when it was performed in London in aid of the Foundling Hospital established ten years earlier by Captain Thomas Coram. At his death Handel bequeathed the fair copy of the score and parts to the Hospital, which continued to benefit from annual performances of the work. Messiah opens with a French Overture, a Sinfonia, its stately introduction followed by a fugal section.


Steyr: Krampusnacht • City Scene • Christmas Market • Steinbach

On the even of the Feast of St Nicholas the Krampus, a furry horned creature, stalks naughty children on the streets of Steyr, while St Nicholas stands ready to reward them with presents, if they have been good. Steinbach is a neighbouring municipality, lying on the River Steyr.

Music Torelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op 8, No 6 (Christmas Concerto)

Among the composers credited with the development of the concerto, one of the most important is Giuseppe Torelli, who was born in Verona in 1658 but made his career primarily in Bologna, where he was employed in the musical establishment of the basilica of San Petronio and was from 1684 a member of the distinguished Accademia Filarmonica, a musical association demanding the highest standards of academic competence. His Opus 8, published posthumously in 1709, was a set of twelve concerti grossi, described in the title as Concerti grossi con una pastorale per il Sa. Natale. The pastoral referred to forms part of the sixth concerto of the collection, possibly following the example of Corelli.


Wilhering Abbey Church

Wilhering, some five miles from Linz, was a Cistercian foundation and dates from 1146. It was rebuilt in 1733, after a fire. The result is an Abbey Church of elaborate rococo ornamentation, carried out by Martino and Bartolomeo Altomonte, unified in conception by its treatment of various aspects of the Blessed Virgin.

Music Bach: Sinfonia from the Christmas Oratorio

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is in fact a group of six seasonal cantatas, the first of which was performed in Leipzig at the Nikolaikirche at Christmas 1734, with a second performance in the afternoon at the Thomaskirche. The second cantata of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio opens with a Sinfonia, a pastoral movement depicting the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes d’amore and oboes da caccia, with strings and organ continuo.


Linz: St Martin’s Church • Christmas Market
Salzkammergut: Landscape • Steyr: Mechanical and Oriental Cribs

The Martinskirche is the oldest church in Linz and, indeed, in Austria. It was mentioned in the 8th century. In contrast to this simplicity is the modern Christmas Market, an annual event. The countryside of the Salzkammergut is seen in winter snow. The Steyr Christmas crib (Steyrer Kripperl), completed in 1939 after forty years work, has well over 200 mechanical wooden figures, moving automatically in an evocation of the first Christmas. The oriental crib shows the shepherds in the fields, and the appearance of the angels, proclaiming Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Music Corelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op 6, No 8 (Christmas Concerto)

The Concerto grosso, a form of instrumental music in which a smaller group of players, the concertino, generally consisting of two violins, cello and harpsichord, is contrasted with the rest of the orchestra, the ripieno players, developed in the later 17th century and was much imitated by later Baroque composers in the first half of the 18th century. The Christmas Concerto added to this form of composition, or included in it, a siciliano movement, a pastorale, making it suitable for performance during the vigil preceding Christmas Day. The most famous of all Christmas Concertos was the work of the composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli, first published posthumously in 1714. The genre has an older history. The one musical element that was associated with Christmas was the pastoral Siciliano, a shepherd dance originating in Sicily, described by theorists as a slow gigue, as far its rhythm was concerned, with a generally calming effect on the listener. The first reference to a composition of this kind occurs in 1637 in Venice, with the publication of a collection of Pastorali Concerti al Presepe (Pastoral Music at the Crib), of which one item seems to have been purely instrumental. Corelli’s Christmas Concerto includes a pastorale as the final and sixth of its short movements.


Oberndorf: Silent Night Chapel • Hallein: Gruber

The words of the carol Stille Nacht are by Josef Mohr, assistant priest at the church of St Nicholas in Oberndorf, and the music by the organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. The original work was sung, probably at midnight Mass in 1818, accompanied by a guitar, as the organ had broken down. It was later given publicity through a visiting organ-builder, to become one of the most popular Christmas songs. The present church, the Stille Nacht Kapelle, was built in 1937, to replace an earlier building destroyed in 1899. Gruber served as organist and choirmaster at Hallein, where he is buried.

Music Manfredini: Concerto Grosso in C major, Op 3, No 12, per il Santisssimo Natale – I. Largo

Manfredini was an Italian violinist-composers, in the tradition of Corelli. He was a pupil of Torelli in Bologna, where he was employed, later moving to Pistoia where he was director of music at the Cathedral of St Philip from 1727 until his death in 1762. His first set of Concerti grossi was published in Bologna in 1704, a second in 1709 and a third, to which the present concerto with its opening Christmas pastorale belongs, in 1718.


Steyr: Santa Claus

A two horses bring Father Christmas, on his wagon with Christmas trees, to the Steyr Advent Market.

Music Manfredini: Concerto Grosso in C major, Op 3, No 12 – II. Largo

The second movement of Manfredini’s concerto, another Largo, leads naturally to a third movement.


Steyr: Santa Claus

Santa Claus distributes presents to the children who have awaited his arrival.

Music Manfredini: Concerto Grosso in C major, Op 3, No 12 – III. Allegro

Manfredini’s concerto duly ends with a lively final movement.



Snow falls on the wooded slopes of the Austrian countryside.

Music Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Winter – II. Largo

Vivaldi’s famous concertos celebrating the four seasons of the year were accompanied, on publication, by explanatory sonnets. In the slow movement of Winter, the fireside offers comfort from the cold.


Salzburg: Christmas Market

The Christmas Market in Salzburg has an inevitable attraction for children, with bewildering displays of toys and Christmas decorations.

Music Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op 1, No 8 – I. Largo – Grave – Vivace

Locatelli, a native of Bergamo, settled in Amsterdam in 1729, after an earlier career as a virtuoso performer. His Concerti grossi, Op 1, published in Amsterdam in 1721, follow closely the model of Corelli’s twelve, the eighth also a Christmas Concerto, with a final pastoral movement to justify the title. An innovation was the inclusion of a viola in the concertino group, a practice followed by other composers of Locatelli’s generation. The concerto has a slow introduction, leading to a fugal Vivace.


Salzkammergut: Landscape

The mountains and fields of the Salzkammergut are covered in winter snow.

Music Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op 1, No 8 – II. Grave

Locatelli’s concerto continues with a slower movement.


Salzburg: Stucco Ceiling

A Salzburg painted ceiling shows choirs of angels, singing, and playing instruments, and scenes from the life of the Holy Family.

Music Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op 1, No 8 – III. Largo Andante

The concerto continues with a movement that brings repetitions of each half.


Salzburg: Christmas Market

The Salzburg Christmas Market attracts adults and visitors of all kinds, its lights illuminating the night scene. Displays include a realistic Christmas crib.

Music Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op 1, No 8 – IV. Andante

The two solo violins continue to interweave their melodies



The sun sets over the snow-covered peaks of Switzerland, and in the towns and villages lights are extinguished as darkness falls.

Music Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op 1, No 8 – V. Pastorale

The final Pastorale of Locatelli’s concerto brings the lilt of the Sicilian shepherd dance that links the concerto with the shepherds and fields of Bethlehem at the first Christmas.

Keith Anderson


Handel/Torelli/Corelli/Manfredini/Locatelli: Capella Istropolitana cond. Jaroslav Krček [Naxos 8.550567]

JS Bach: Budapest Failoni Chamber Orchestra cond. Géza Oberfrank [Naxos 8.550428–30]

Vivaldi: Takako Nishizaki, Violin, Capella Istropolitana cond. Stephen Gunzenhauser [Naxos 8.570344–45]

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