Notes and Editorial Reviews
Berlioz wrote his own text for L’Enfance du Christ, which he composed in 1853 and 1854. It was first performed at the Salle Herz, Paris on 10 December 1854, with Berlioz conducting. He described the work as a Trilogie sacrée. The first of its three sections depicts King Herod ordering the massacre of all newborn children in Judaea; the second shows Mary, Joseph, and Jesus setting out for Egypt to avoid the slaughter, having been warned by angels; and the final section portrays their arrival in the Egyptian town of Saïs where they are given refuge by a family of Ishmaelites. Berlioz was not religious as an adult but remained all his life susceptible to the beauty of the religious music that had enraptured him as a child. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and MSO Chorus and an outstanding team of soloists in this Surround Sound SACD recording.
Sasha Cooke makes a radiant Mary opposite Roderick Williams’s tenderly solicitous Joseph. The Melbourne Symphony sound very warm and plush, perhaps a bit too much so for some tastes in this work, but their playing is beautifully articulated and detailed. The set’s principal strength, however, lies in the choral singing, which is superb throughout in its clarity, balance and dynamic control.