L’Enfance du Christ, Op.25
Mary – Karen Cargill
Narrator / Centurion – Yann Beuron
Joseph / Polydorous – Marcus Farnsworth
Herod / Father – Christopher Purves
BBC Symphony Chorus
Trinity Laban Chamber Choir
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 15 December, 2013
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The three parts – ‘Herod’s Dream’, The Flight into Egypt’, ‘The Arrival at Saïs’ – here wisely given without an interval, held the attention as music, as a particular performance, and in moving the sensibilities, not least in its tender and pastoral qualities, Berlioz’s gentle affection for his subject touching the heart and moving the soul, not least in ‘The Shepherds’ Farewell’ (Part 2), which might have seemed slightly – just a hair’s-breadth – pushed along … until Roth introduced a devastating pianissimo for the final verse.
In music that has elements of Baroque, Classical and Romantic – possibly as a result of Berlioz’s piecemeal writing of it – these performers preserved the composer’s disarming creation, retaining its innocence yet sustaining a craving to be enlightened. If the trio-sonata for two flutes and harp in Part 3 seems too much a diversion, charming though it is, it was most beautifully delivered here by Kathleen Stevenson, Daniel Pailthorpe and Sioned Williams. The solo singing was uniformly excellent, not least in each soloist’s savouring and colouring of words, and the choral contribution matched it, with the angels’ antiphons (Trinity Laban) nicely judged in terms of distance. In short, this was a devoted performance, devotedly listened to, and often rather special.