The 150th anniversary of Hector Berlioz’s death in 1869 will be commemorated in 2019.
An ancient story with a modern parallel, Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ tells the story of the Holy Family fleeing their homeland and relying on the kindness of strangers as they journey across the desert to safety.
Tender, intimate and intensely evocative, this oratorio is a stark musical contrast to the wild pagan dervishes, choruses of the damned and huge orchestral forces more commonly associated with Hector Berlioz. It was also immediately popular at its Premiere – which was unusual for Berlioz at the time – and hailed for its ‘angelic purity’. In almost cinematic style, Berlioz paints the human elements of the story in a series of visual tableaux: an uneasy night in Rome, the world-weariness of Herod, the blind fanaticism of the soothsayers, the joys and griefs of Jesus’ parents, the shepherds’ kindness and the bustling welcome of the Ishmaelite household. Prepare to be moved to tears, Berlioz would be proud! As he wrote in his Memoirs about a performance of L’Enfance du Christ at the 1863 Strasbourg Festival: “To my great surprise, people were profoundly moved, and tears were shed at the mystic chorus, ‘Ô mon âme,’ which is sung unaccompanied at the end of the work. How happy I feel when I see my audience weep!”