Caplet Sacred Songs

Author: 
Lionel Salter

Caplet Sacred Songs

  • (Le) miroir de Jésus
  • Inscriptions champêtre

Andre Caplet earned a considerable reputation as a conductor in his lifetime, but his ghost must be beaming at the attention belatedly given him as a composer: in particular he must be delighted at the high standard of the performances he is receiving—the Divertissements (played by two different harpists, both excellent), his version of Poe's Masque of the Red Death (under the title Conte fantastique), the Septet, and now these two works.
The Inscriptions champetres, imaginative and delicate settings written in 1914 of pantheistic poems for unaccompanied women's voices, are exquisitely sung by as splendid a female chorus as I have ever heard—fresh in tone, absolutely pure in intonation, with sensitive nuances and phrasing. Lovely! The main work, however, is the 1923 Miroir de Jesus, a setting of poems by Henri Gheon on the Mysteries of the Rosary: they are divided into three groups (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious), each of five and each preceded by an instrumental prelude and announced (as if in the illuminated letters of a medieval manuscript) by the chorus. Caplet's writing for the strings and harp is vivid and colourful, particularly in the ''Agony in the garden'' movement (musically outstanding), and Tetu's players serve him well. The chorus acts as a background to the solo part admirably taken by Hanna Schaer, whose warm voice, clean technique and clear words are a source of pleasure—in the final movement, ''Coronation in heaven'', she has to go from speech via Sprechgesang to song. Stylistically the work ranges from suggestions of archaic organum to dramatic dissonance (in Part 2); everything is finely crafted, but there are two notable weaknesses: a lack of thematic distinction, and a stop-go-stop-go discontinuity with far too many prolonged silences exacerbated by a disregard by the (otherwise very good) recording of the score's constant directions to enchainer.'

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