15 Nov 2011

A Rarely-Performed Gem – Berlioz' Childhood of Christ

We are very excited for the performance this weekend – Berlioz’ Childhood of Christ. If you’ve noticed a bit more Berlioz being programmed lately, it’s because our Music Director, Thierry Fischer, is a huge Berlioz fan. In his own words:

“I don’t just like Berlioz, I need to perform Berlioz very regularly. He’s a composer very close to my inspiration. He wrote music by putting his own life in music, so it’s very easy to identify all his troubles, fears, hopes, nightmares. His imagination was absolutely stupefying.”

Childhood of Christ is a very interesting work for many reasons. First, Berlioz was not a religious man, so the fact that he composed a “sacred trilogy”, as he called it, was unusual. But he was a huge fan of church music, so that was his inspiration. Second, it’s one of the few works of his that the audiences and critics of the time actually liked! They usually felt that his music was bizarre sounding, but they loved how simple and melodic this work is:

During the second performance on December 24, calls of “encore” drowned out the Alleluias at the end of “The Repose of the Holy Family,” prompting the composer to turn to the audience and shout, “We’re going to play the piece again, but this time please allow it to finish.”
– John Mangum, Program Designer/Annotator, Los Angeles Philharmonic
For such a beautiful work, it doesn’t get performed very often, perhaps because of the large chorus and soloists needed. If you’re a fan of choral music, this is a concert you won’t want to miss!
NPR Music had a great article two years ago about the piece, which includes a complete recording! Check it out!