Paul McCreesh / fot. Ben Wright
Paul McCreesh / fot. Ben Wright
Orchestral concerts
L'enfance du Christ
20.12
Fri.
7:00 PM
NFM, Main Hall
Programme:

H. Berlioz L'enfance du Christ – oratorio op. 25

Performers:

Paul McCreesh – conductor
Soloists TBC
NFM Choir
Lionel Sow – artistic direction of NFM Choir
NFM Wrocław Philharmonic

Duration:
94 minutes
Venue:
NFM, Main Hall
plac Wolności 1, 50-071 Wrocław
Pricelists:
from 10 to 95 zł

The beginnings of Berlioz's L’enfance du Christ were very modest. The fact that the work dedicated to the biblical Holy Family was written at all by him, a religiously indifferent person, is due to the vanity of Parisian salons and a cheap joke of the composer himself, in which creativity and sensitivity to a topic taken up by accident were born gradually. Not being convinced of his idea for a long time, he worked giving the composition its full form for four years. The work that was finally created brilliantly combines a dramatic sense and contemplative tranquility. At the NFM it will be performed under the baton of Paul McCreesh.

In the fall of 1850, the architect Louis-Joseph Duc asked Hector Berlioz for an entry in an album. The composer sketched a four-part organ Andantino. The mood of the piece he wrote then seemed full of “naive mysticism”, so he thought of adding text to it. In this way, the organ miniature transformed into a choir of Bethlehem shepherds saying goodbye to Baby Jesus. Within a few days, he composed further fragments, creating a miniature, three-movement cantata. In November, he included the archaising Farewell of the Shepherds in the programme of one of his concerts. However, he presented this short piece as the work not of himself, but of a fictional French composer living in the 17th century, Pierre Ducré. Most of the listeners were fooled, some even said that Berlioz would never have written something so melodic. Yet the topic demanded serious treatment.

The entire cantata The Flight into Egypt (which eventually became the second movement of the oratorio) had its premiere in December 1853 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Both the audience and the performing musicians demanded that Berlioz expand the work. In April 1854, another movement was written – the apocryphal Arrival at Sais. Then the artist wrote Herod’s Dream, which opens the whole thing. The complete oratorio in the form of a triptych was first performed one hundred and seventy years ago – on December 10, 1854. The Parisian audience received the composition, full of intimate tenderness, very warmly, and Heinrich Heine was among those praising the work. And although Berlioz was a bit irritated by the success of the oratorio, which he never took seriously, when in the finale the choir softly sings: “O my soul, restrain your pride! What else remains in the face of this mystery?”, it seems that he reveals the demands placed on him by writing a work that is one of the peak achievements of the religious spirit of France in the mid-19th century.

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