Saved events

Press room

Baroque Christmas at the Barbican - glorious festive music from the 17th and 18th century

Rachel Podger smiling and resting her head on her hand

The Barbican celebrates Christmas 2022 in style, with evocative music from 17th and 18th century Europe - a glorious period of Western music known as the ‘Baroque’. 

Over one week in December, the Barbican serves up a cornucopia of seasonal Baroque music, including ornate masterpieces by two of classical music’s most famous composers - Johann Sebastian Bach’s uplifting Christmas Oratorio and arguably the world’s best known festive choral work, Handel’s thrilling Messiah, alongside rarely performed Christmas music by the prolific French composer and toast of 17th century Paris high society: Marc-Antoine Charpentier

A stellar line up of performers includes William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, who for the past four decades have become a byword for lively and accomplished performances of Baroque music with Gallic joie-de-vivre. The Barbican’s two Associate Ensembles, Academy of Ancient Music and the ‘peerless’ [Observer] Britten Sinfonia, together with leading choir Polyphony, and a host of spectacular soloists, all feature. Internationally acclaimed violinist and Baroque specialist, Rachel Podger, puts the spotlight on hidden gems by composers who lived to celebrate New Year Eve in 1700, alongside special new arrangements for violin of some of Bach’s best known works.


Barbican Baroque Christmas – the concerts:


Britten Sinfonia: JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio

Mon 12 Dec, Barbican Hall at 7.30pm

Tickets from £15 plus booking fee

“One of the world’s finest interpreters of choral music” (Classic FM), Stephen Layton directs Britten Sinfonia and a handpicked cast of twelve soloists from his choir Polyphony for a glorious seasonal celebration of JS Bach's thrilling and spiritual festive masterpiece. Christmas Oratorio, first performed to celebrate Christmas in 1734, was originally intended to be performed over six days between Christmas and Epiphany. Parts one, two, three and six (performed in this single concert) explore in magnificent musical style key moments in the familiar Christmas story: the Birth of Jesus, the annunciation and adoration of the shepherds, and the adoration of the Magi. 

Produced by Britten Sinfonia


Rachel Podger

Thu 15 Dec 2022, Milton Court Concert Hall, 7.30pm

Tickets from £15 plus booking fee

Internationally acclaimed violinist, Rachel Podger, a leading early music specialist, returns to the Barbican for the UK launch of her new solo album, Tutta Sola (Channel Classics).

Podger believes that “just about everything starts with Bach” and her recital is bookended by world premieres of special new arrangements for violin of two of  Bach’s most celebrated works, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and Cello Suite No.6 in G major. There’s also a sprinkling of lesser known violin gems from European composers who all lived to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 1700, and Phantasia, a new work by Chad Kelly, where the “spectre of Bach as organist looms large”.

Produced by the Barbican


Academy of Ancient Music: Handel’s Messiah

Fri 16 Dec 2022, Barbican Hall, 7.00pm

Tickets from £15 plus booking fee

Handel’s extraordinary retelling of the life of Christ, Messiah, is a landmark of European culture; the tradition of annual festive performances in Britain and beyond dates back to the work’s premiere in 1741 (only seven years after the first performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio).

Academy of Ancient Music [AAM], directed from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings are joined by a world-class team of soloists headed by the outstanding American soprano Amanda Forsythe. In 1980, AAM was the first orchestra ever to record a complete Messiah on ‘period’ instruments [instruments in keeping with those typically played in the 17th century].

Produced by Academy of Ancient Music


Les Arts Florissants: Charpentier at Christmas

Mon 19 Dec 2022, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Tickets from £15 plus booking fee

William Christie leads Les Arts Florissants, peerless interpreters of the glorious music of the French Baroque, in a seasonal concert featuring sparkling music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Despite never holding a position in the court of Louis XIV, with over 500 pieces of religious music to his name, Marc-Antoine Charpentier (16431704) was renowned throughout Paris for his mastery of musical genres; none more so than his Christmas music.  As part of Barbican Baroque Christmas, Les Arts Florissants performs the composer’s instrumental versions of well-loved French traditional Christmas carols of the time, interwoven with the brief but beautiful Antiennes ‘O’ de l’Avent (just as they would have been in Charpentier’s time). Charpentier’s colourful oratorio In Nativitatem Domini Canticum, with its particularly jubilant depiction of the shepherds’ journey to Jerusalem, completes the concert. 

Produced by the Barbican