This review by Christopher Follett appeared in Musical Opinion magazine in April 2009

L’Enfance du Christ – Berlioz’s sacred trilogy – an oratorio recounting the tale of the flight to Egypt – “a work written in the manner of old illuminated missals” as the composer put it – was the subject of a rapt concert at Cadogan Hall on January 24 with the Choir of London & Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis.  Perhaps the most intimate of Berlioz’s main works, “L’Enfance” is remarkable for its originality, subtle pastel shading and restrained orchestration, all of which Sir Colin was able to amply eke out of what is basically a chamber orchestra comprising young players drawn from music colleges and assorted orchestras and ensembles and a choir composed of professionals with an ongoing commitment to charitable work. Of the seven vocal soloists, Nicholas Mulroy proved an authoritative narrator and George Humphreys a suitably fraught Herod, while mezzo-soprano Catherine Hopper excelled in the delicate role of Mary, delivering the tenderest of performances.

The Choir itself was highly articulate and clear in diction, indeed the standard of French sung by all was laudably high, crisp and lucid throughout; the lovely choral Shepherds’ Farewell was movingly delivered and on the purely orchestral side, the harpist and two flutes gave an atmospheric rendering of the young Ishmaelites’ Trio – the only piece of chamber music composed by Berlioz – warm in Mediterranean ambience. The Choir of London, founded in 2003, has given UK and world premieres of works by the likes of John Tavener, Stephen Leek & John Rutter; it maintains a special focus on the Middle East, with plans this summer to return to the West Bank to perform and help stage an international music festival at venues across the Palestinian Territories – its fourth such project.

The destruction in an Israeli air strike last December of the Gaza Music School, located in Palestinian Red Cross Society premises in the centre of Gaza City, has seriously disrupted the planned launch of the Choir of London Trust’s Bursary Scheme for young musician applicants from the territory.

Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ/Sir Colin Davis


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