Berlioz: L’enfance du Christ

Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
John Eliot Gardiner

Michael Spyres - Narrator
Ann Hallenberg - Mary
Lionel Lhote - Joseph
William Thomas - Herod
Alex Ashworth - Father/Polydorus
Gareth Treseder - Centurion

Trinity Boys Choir

Concert dates:

Zürich, Switzerland
5pm, Sunday 28 November

Zürich, Switzerland
6.30pm, Saturday 27 November

Ely Cathedral
Cambridgeshire, UK
7.30pm, Friday 10 December

St Martin-in-the-Fields
London, UK
7.30pm, Saturday 11 December


Palau de la Música
Barcelona, Spain
8pm, Thursday 16 December

Berlioz L’enfance du Christ, Op. 25

In November, the Monteverdi Choir joined the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich as John Eliot Gardiner led them in two performances of Berlioz’s sacred oratorio. Then in December, the Choir reunited with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique for two concerts in the UK - the first in the magnificent Ely Cathedral, and the second in London’s historic church, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The concert at St Martin’s marked the beginning of our new artistic partnership with the central London church, and received glowing reviews in the press:

“The period instrumentalists of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique excelled… And the Monteverdi Choir captured not only the spitting hatred of the soothsayers but also the hushed reverence of the shepherds — their “farewell” including one breathtaking crescendo that will echo in my mind well past the 12 days of Christmas.”

Richard Morrison ★★★★★ The Times click here to read the full review (Times subscription required)

“The Christmas oratorio about the holy family’s flight into Egypt was beautifully performed by John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and a top-flight cast of soloists.”
Erica Jeal ★★★★ The Guardianclick here to read the full review

“A magical telling of Berlioz’s Christmas story”
Ivan Hewett ★★★★ The Telegraphclick here to read the full review

“Perfectly modulated perfection also came from the Monteverdi Choir, running the gamut from tenderest of shepherds to harsh, spitting Egyptians… You don’t get more spiritual seasonal music than this, nor classier performances.”
David Nice, The Arts Deskclick here to read the full review

The composition of L’enfance du Christ began when Berlioz sketched a few bars of organ music during a friend’s party in 1850. Later that year Berlioz turned the musical idea into L’adieux des bergers, a chorus of shepherds in Bethlehem bidding farewell to the child Jesus, and he performed it in Paris, passing the piece off as the work of a fictional seventeenth-century composer. The audience fell for the hoax and – at a time when Berlioz’s music was viewed as wild and eccentric – was utterly seduced by its simple melody and old-fashioned charm.

Berlioz expanded the piece into a three-part oratorio in 1853-4, with a tenor récitant providing the guiding thread amid the chorus and various dramatic roles. It begins with a psychologically probing portrayal of King Herod, driven to villainy by his soothsayers, and the Massacre of the Innocents, which prompts the second section, depicting the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus into Egypt. The third section tells the story of the Holy Family’s stay in Egypt, with their bewildered arrival in the town of Sais and finally their welcome in the house of an Ishmaelite family.

The work quickly gained ardent admirers, including the young Massenet, and Brahms, who wrote to Clara Schumann: ‘This work has always enchanted me. I really like it the best of all Berlioz’s works.’