At Christmas, music abounds. There is no other sacred day, or holiday, so deeply intertwined with music.  If you are considering stretching your musical palette this Christmas, here is a list to choose from.  You may already know many of these pieces but you may not know the particular recordings I have recommended.

I’ve limited my choices to recordings that are presently available on CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, or digital downloads. This list is alphabetized, rather than listed in chronological order. This was necessary, since recordings will often include several pieces composed years apart, perhaps much more.


sacred music

What I would call ‘Indispensable Sacred Music Recordings’ are marked with an ***.

1. Barber, Agnus Dei, The Esoterics (Naxos).
2. Bernstein, Mass, cond., Leonard Bernstein (Columbia).
3. Briggs, Mass for Notre Dame, cond., Stephen Layton (Hyperion).
4. Brubeck, To Hope! A Celebration, cond. Russell Gloyd (Telarc).
5. Bruckner, Motets, Choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral (Delphian).***
6. Byrd, Three Masses, cond., Peter Phillips (Gimell).
7. Burgon, Nunc Dimittis, cond., Richard Hickox (EMI Classics).
8. Celtic Christmas from Brittany, Ensemble Choral Du Bout Du Monde (Green Linnet)
9. Chant, Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (Milan/Jade).
10. Charpentier, Te Deum in D, cond., Philip Ledger (EMI Classics).
11. Christmas, The Holly and the Ivy, cond., John Rutter (Decca).
12. Christmas, Christmas with Robert Shaw, cond., Robert Shaw (Vox).
13. Christmas, Cantate Domino, cond., Torsten Nilsson (Proprius).***
14. Christmas, Follow That Star, The Gents (Channel Classics).
15. Christmas in Harvard Square, Saint Paul’s Boys Choir (AimHigher).
16. Christmas: Moravian Christmas, Czech Philharmonic Choir (ArcoDiva)
17. Desprez, Ave Maris Stella Mass, cond., Andrew Parrott (EMI Reflexe).
18. Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius, cond. John Barbirolli (EMI Classics).***
19. Finzi, In Terra Pax, cond. Vernon Handley (Lyrita).
20. Gonoud, St. Cecilia Mass, cond. George Pretre (EMI Classics).
21. Gorecki, Beatus Vir & Totus Tuus, cond. John Nelson (Polygram).
22. Handel, Messiah, cond., by Nicholas McGegan (Harmonia Mundi)***
23. Haydn, Creation, cond., Neville Marriner (Phillips).
24. Haydn, Mass in Time of War, cond., Neville Marriner (EMI Classics).
25. Hildegard of Bingen, Feather on the Breath of God, Gothic Voices (Hyperion).
26. Howells, Hymnus Paradisi, cond., David Willocks (EMI Classics).***
27. Hymns, Amazing Grace: American Hymns and Spirituals, cond. Robert Shaw (Telarc).***
28. Lauridsen, Lux Aeterna & O Magnum Mysterium, cond. Stephen Layton (Hyperion).***
30. Liszt, Christus, cond., Helmut Rilling (Hannsler).
31. Liszt, The Legend of St. Elisabeth, cond., Arpad Joo (Hungaroton).
32. Morales, Magnificat, cond., Stephen Rice (Hyperion).
33. Palestrina, Canticum Canticorum, Les Voix Baroques (ATMA).
34. Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, cond. Peter Phillips (Gimell).
35. Parsons, Ave Maria and other Sacred Music, cond., Andrew Carwood (Hyperion).
36. Poulenc, Gloria & Stabat Mater, cond., George Pretre (EMI Classics).
37. Respighi, Lauda Per La Nativita Del Signore, cond., Anders Eby Proprius).
38. Rheinberger, Sacred Choral Music, cond., Charles Bruffy (Chandos).
39. Rutter, Be Thou My Vision: Sacred Music, cond., John Rutter (Collegium).***
40. Saint Saens, Oratorio de Noel, cond., Anders Eby (Proprius).
41. Shapenote Carols, Tudor Choir (Loft Recordings)
42. Tallis, Spem in alium & Lamentations of Jeremiah, cond., David Hill (Hyperion).***
43. Vaughn Williams, Five Mystical Songs, cond., David Willcocks (EMI Classics).***
44. Vaughn Williams, Pilgrims Progress, cond., Adrian Boult (EMI Classics).***
45. Victoria, O Magnum Mysterium & Mass, cond., David Hill (Hyperion).***