My most beloved of composers, Hector Berlioz, was born 217 years ago today. While he is often noted (and mocked) for his use of bombast, he was actually very tasteful and strategic in his use of big sounds: Berlioz loved contrast, and he could (and did) write music of surprising delicacy and intimacy. A lot of that can be heard in his oratorio L’Enfance du Christ, which tells the story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’s flight into Egypt after the Nativity. While Berlioz’s music was often met with hostility from the composer’s native Parisian audiences, L’Enfance du Christ was embraced from the start and for many years was one of the few works by Berlioz to receive regular performances at all, before the great reassessment of his genius took place in the middle of the 20th century, ninety-plus years too late for Berlioz himself to have enjoyed it.
The Shepherd’s Chorus from this work is a common excerpt heard this time of year, but Berlioz is so much more engrossing when one listens to the entire piece, so here it is.