Reviewed on Fri 07 Feb, 2014
Berlioz’s The Childhood of Christ is the antithesis to his extravagant works, for although substantial in length (around 90 minutes), the composer here is particularly economic, both with forces and expression, Baroque-inclined but also Romantic. Which should not suggest that this version of The Christmas Story – for all that it is pastoral, tender and intimate – is not significant and vivid, Berlioz’s affection for the subject often touching the heart. Robin Ticciati keeps the score transparent while also yielding wonderful moments such as ‘The Shepherds’ Farewell’ (Part 2). Each of the vocal soloists is excellent, whether narrating or portraying a character, and the good people that inhabit the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and its Choir respond sensitively and, when required, dramatically to Ticciati’s carefully plotted course. The recording is clean and well balanced, the text and translation are included, and Berlioz ensures that flute-fanciers and harp pundits are not forgotten. Fantastique!