Honegger Le Roi David (orig ver)
Naxos is not quite right in calling this the 'orignal version' of Honegger's dramatic psalm, which created a sensation when it first appeared in 1921; but it does employ the original 17-piece instrumentation (without strings except for a solitary double-bass). The work started life as a series of 27 short numbers, for this combination and an amateur chorus, for a staged representation of the biblical story, from David the shepherd boy killing the giant Goliath to his kingship, his criminal prehension of Bathsheba, and finally the proclamation of his son Solomon. Two years later Honegger rescored it for orchestra (which form most recordings have adopted), and only for that concert version was narration inserted - sometimes independent, sometimes as melodrama (most strikingly in the scarifying scene of the witch of Endor).
Jacques Martin declaims the narration clearly and with a developed sense of drama; and the performance as a whole is an impressive one (the smaller orchestration no less effective), with very good players and chorus and an appropriately angelic-voiced Danielle Borst. The only weaknesses are the tenor's heavy vibrato and a very poor treble for the initial psalm. Honegger's language is extremely varied, from the exotic, the strident or the atonal to the lyricism of 'Je t'aime, Seigneur' and the beatific and ecstatic final chorus - a masterly movement. Be warned, by the way, that it is not the tracks that are numbered but, uncorrespondingly, the movementsof the work.'