10 relaxing pieces of Christmas music to keep you warm

17 December 2020, 14:51

Relaxing Christmas music
Relaxing Christmas music. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Pop your slippers on, heat up a cup of something mulled, and sink into our soothing Christmas soundworld.

Christmas will be different for many this year, but the magic of music still shines through.

From gentle arrangements of traditional carols, to calming festive melodies, here’s a wonderful selection of relaxing Christmas music to enjoy, however and wherever you may be celebrating this year.

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  1. O Tannenbaum – Ernst Anschütz

    ‘O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches…’

    This timeless carol sings an ode to the centrepiece of homes around the world at this time of year – the Christmas tree, and all its shining glory.

    Read more: The 30 greatest Christmas carols of all time >

  2. Ave Verum Corpus – Mozart

    Sometimes, it’s the simplest ones that have the greatest impact. This familiar Mozartian melody, gently melancholic but always resolving in the major key, was written to be performed sotto voce and finds delicate power in its simplicity.

  3. O Little Town of Bethlehem – Phillips Brooks

    While nowadays it may conjure images of joyous congregations and candlelit services, ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ was inspired by a breathtaking view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine.

    Its reassuring text and melody, originally written for a local Sunday school choir, set this carol apart as an abiding piece of Christmas music.

  4. Coventry Carol

    One of the oldest carols we still sing today, ‘Coventry Carol’ dates back to the 16th century.

    Its sombre, but undeniably beautiful, minor melody, has been exquisitely recorded by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, whose voices are felt to many as the soundtrack for the festive period.

  5. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

    Gently undulating up and down, Bach’s melody moves cyclically, ever reassuring and always bringing us back home to those familiar opening notes.

    Because it’s Bach, many musicians over the years have interpreted this timeless piece. We think the arrangement for solo piano is just lovely…

  6. Away in a Manger

    One of the sacred Christmas carols we still sing today, ‘Away in a Manger’ is a favourite among carollers young and old.

    The 19th-century offering has a gentle, unfussy melody sung – as with most carols – by the trebles or sopranos, as the sumptuous harmonies work away underneath.

  7. Fantasia on Greensleeves – Vaughan Williams

    Based on a traditional Tudor tune, Fantasia on Greensleeves has evolved into a beloved work in its own right. Often heard during the festive period, Vaughan Williams’ piece captures an image of pastoral beauty and a typical English Christmastime.

  8. O Holy Night – Adolphe Adam

    It’s hard to think of an instrument or musical genre that hasn’t done their own take on this beloved carol – also known by its French name, ‘Minuit, Chrétiens’.

    The beautifully reflective song tells of the birth of Jesus, and of humanity’s redemption. For many, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.

  9. Andante Festivo – Sibelius

    This poignant, almost hymnic string work was held close to the composer’s heart, even being played at his funeral in 1957. Both deeply relaxing and intensely moving, the festive cantata’s swelling melody and rich texture make it a glorious choice for Christmastime listening.

  10. Stille Nacht – Franz Xaver Gruber

    The original German version of ‘Silent Night’, consonants clear, delicate and impeccably placed, is just delightful.

    In 1914, the year of the outbreak of the First World War, a Christmas truce took place – and in a rare moment of peace, the carol was sung simultaneously, across the trenches, by English and German troops.