The best Christmas music programmes on BBC Radio and TV this year
Here's our selection of the best festive Christmas TV and radio this year, much of it with a classical flavour
Christmas is fast approaching, and with it a host of brilliant TV and radio, much of it featuring some beautiful classical and choral music.
Here's our pick of the highlights coming to your TV screens and radio sets this Christmas. Some, like the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, will be familiar to BBC listeners the world over. But there's also plenty of brand new and exciting fare coming this festive season.
Here's our pick of the TV and radio programmes that should get the Christmas spirit flowing this year...
The best Christmas TV and radio on the BBC this year
Composer of the Week: J S Bach at Christmas
All this week, Donald Macleod invites us to join Bach at five key Christmases during his lifetime. On Monday, Donald finds the composer preparing for his very first Christmas in Leipzig in 1723. Bach served as kantor in Leipzig from 1723 onwards. The following day, we look in on Bach as he spends Christmas 1717 in prison.
Wednesday’s instalment takes us to Cöthen in 1721, where the composer is now overseeing musical entertainments at the Prince’s palace.
On Thursday we’re back in Leipzig, in 1734, as a more jaded Bach sets out on his most ambitious Christmas project yet. Finally, Friday’s show returns to Leipzig in 1745, as the ageing composer produces a splendid final Christmas Cantata for the university scholars.
Radio 3, 19-23 Dec, 12-1pm daily
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!
Choreographer and director Matthew Bourne offers a distinctive contemporary take on the classic Christmas tale. Here's a guide to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker!
With family-sized helpings of Bourne’s trademark wit, pathos and magical fantasy, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! follows Clara’s bittersweet journey from a darkly comic Christmas Eve at Dr Dross’s Orphanage, through a shimmering, ice-skating winter wonderland to the scrumptious candy kingdom of Sweetieland.
Tchaikovsky’s glorious score combines with Anthony Ward’s delectable sets and costumes and some dazzling choreography to create a fresh, irreverent interpretation of the classic.
BBC Two, 23 December, time TBC
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
A perennial festive highlight, the annual carol concert from King’s College, Cambridge is broadcast live on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve – and then repeated on Radio 3 on Christmas Day. Two chances to catch this magical feast of words and music.
Radio 4, 24 December, 3-5pm / Radio 3, 25 December, 1-3pm
Faroe Islands Sound Walk
Tune in for some festive escapism as writer Horatio Clare traces a sonic route across the windswept Faroe Islands, the archipelago of 18 Atlantic islands north-west of Scotland, with their strong roots in Nordic culture. During his walks Horatio searches for local legends, holy streams and elusive Faroese elves.
Radio 3, 24-26 December, 4-5pm
Slow Radio: The Reindeer
Recorded in Sweden, this atmospheric programme follows the sights and sounds of a reindeer herd as they walk the remote mountains above the Polar Circle.
Radio 3, 24 December, 6.30pm
A special Yule edition of Mixtape, Radio 3’s eclectic daily selection of classical favourites, lesser-known gems and a few surprises thrown in for good measure.
Radio 3, 24 December, 9.30pm
Benny and Hitch
Packed with musical cameos from the BBC Concert Orchestra, this new radio drama imagines one of the most volatile relationships in cinematic history: between composer Bernard Herrmann and director Alfred Hitchcock.
By the late 1950s, the duo – known to each other as ‘Benny’ and ‘Hitch’ – had formed the most famous composer-director partnership in film history, creating masterpieces including Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho.
However, with tensions growing, Benny and Hitch’s friendship comes to a catastrophic end. But who is really responsible for the break-up?
From beyond the grave, Benny and Hitch set out to determine which man has blood on their hands. Tim McInnerny and Toby Jones star.
Radio 3, 25 December, 7.30-9pm
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse
An adaptation of Charlie Mackesy’s bestselling children’s book, this heartfelt story follows the unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse as they journey together on the boy's search for home. Directed by the author, the show’s voice cast includes Tom Hollander, Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne. The original score is composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge, and performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra under the baton of Geoff Alexander.
Elsewhere on our site, you can read more about the music for The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. And there's an interview with Isobel Waller-Bridge in the Christmas issue of BBC Music Magazine, out November 29.
BBC One, date and time tbc
A Ghost Story for Christmas: Count Magnus
Mark Gatiss continues his series of TV adaptations of classic M.R. James ghost stories.
Set in 1863, Count Magnus centres on the inquisitive Mr Wraxhall, who becomes fascinated by the long-dead founder of a Swedish family.
Wraxhall is drawn ever deeper into Count Magnus' dark world – and discovers that the dreaded aristocrat may not lie easy in his tomb. Starring Jason Watkins (The Crown, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies) and MyAnna Buring (The Witcher, The Responder).
BBC Two, date and time tbc
This new adaptation of Delibes’ much-loved ballet mixes enchanting animation and live dance. Dr Coppelius (Vito Mazzeo) is a cosmetic surgeon, whose lure of superficial beauty poisons the town. Swan (Michaela DePrince) must uncover the truth about the popular newcomer who puts her community and the life of her beloved Franz (Daniel Camargo) in danger.
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Choreographed by Ted Brandsen, this version features an original score composed by Maurizio Malagnini, and performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra.
BBC Two, date and time TBC