Berlioz: L'enfance Du Christ /Norrington, Stuttgart Radio So

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Not until the subdued applause at the end did it become apparent that this was taken live—the collector will own many studio jobs where the performers provide more noises off than this supernaturally quiet audience. But perhaps because he’s playing to an audience, Norrington’s L’enfance du Christ is Writ Large and taken at a dramatic tack. There’s a propulsive hustle from the opening bars as the nocturnal march becomes a frantic quickstep. Herod’s scene always tempts the operatic, but Mary and Joseph’s numbers, attractively if ringingly interpreted by Oelze and Maltman, might well be from some steamy Massenet thriller. The “Shepherd’s Farewell” skips along like a Wanderlied. One will have heard the Ishmaelites’ flute/harp trio more deftly done—many times. And the final chorus caps the piece with a solemnly oratorio-like massiveness, scanting the sublime aura of mystical reflection. Those things are in the score, and playing L’enfance du Christ in heavy quasi-operatic oils, rather than as a once upon a time pastel, is a matter of emphasis. In comparison with the suave dexterity of Philippe Herreweghe’s vivacious but refined way with it (Harmonia Mundi HMX 901632.33, Fanfare 26:4), one may find this bracingly—emphatic. Sound places soloists and orchestra up-front, with the chorus recessed a bit, all clearly detailed in spaciousness and delivered with gutsy oomph. If you’ve longed to hear its operatic potential mined, this L’enfance du Christ was made for you.

Adrian Corleonis, FANFARE

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 93091

  • UPC: 040888309123

  • Label: SWR Music

  • Composer: Hector Berlioz

  • Conductor: Roger Norrington

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble

  • Performer: Bernhard Hartmann, Christiane Oelze, Christopher Maltman, Frank Bossert, Mark Padmore, Ralf Lukas


  1. L'enfance du Christ, Op. 25

    Composer: Hector Berlioz

    Ensemble: Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Frank Bossert (Tenor), Bernhard Hartmann (Bass), Ralf Lukas (Bass), Christopher Maltman (Baritone), Christiane Oelze (Soprano), Mark Padmore (Tenor)

    Conductor: Roger Norrington