This year around Christmas I have the strange opportunity to sing all three of the major Christmas oratorios: Messiah, Weihnachts Oratorium and L’enfance du Christ and all in different cities at that. We are, of course, all familiar with Messiah whose Christmas content lasts all of 30mins and is basically dogmatic meatloaf. Those of you reading from the English speaking world are probably aware of Bach’s Weihnachts Oratorium but wouldn’t be attending a sing-a-long W.O anytime soon. Finally we have L’enfance du Christ from our favourite man with a clarinet fetish Mr. H. Berlioz.
Berlioz described L’enfance as a Trilogie sacrée (sacred trilogy). The first of its three sections depicts King Herod ordering the massacre of all newborn children in Judaea; the second shows the Holy Family of 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 Sais where they are given refuge by a family of Ishmaelites.
Here’s an excerpt:
The shepherds farewell – I like this version because it involves a real Glee club from Harvard and it looks like a time machine.