The Music Plays On — Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ

Donato Cabrera
3 min readDec 17, 2020
The Flight Into Egypt — Giotto di Bondone

The French composer Hector Berlioz is mostly known in the U.S. for his truly groundbreaking Symphonie fantastique, but he was a prolific composer whose many works are admired and performed with regularity in other parts of the world, including his oratorio, L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ).

Between 1850–1854, Berlioz wrote the music and words for what would become the Trilogie sacrée (sacred trilogy) — his words — of L’Enfance du Christ. In 1850, he composed a work for tenor, organ, chorus and orchestra called La fuite en Egypte (The Flight to Egypt). It was published in 1852 and premiered in Leipzig the following year to such great success that he was persuaded to expand the work into a larger piece. La fuite en Egypte would become the centerpiece of the trilogy with Part I Le songe d’Hérode (Herod’s Dream) and Part III L’arrivée à Saïs (The Arrival at Sais).

Atypical for Berlioz at the time, L’Enfance du Christ was favorably received by most critics and has remained a very popular work of Berlioz’s ever since, with many annual performances throughout France and elsewhere. Many critics considered this piece as a clear sign that Berlioz was now composing in a more simple style, however Berlioz strongly disagreed —

In that work many people imagined they could detect a radical change in my style and…