Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

(1878-1925) Le Miroir de Jésus (1923)
Brigitte Desnoues (mezzo) Maîtrise de Radio France Orchestre des Pays de Savoie/Mark Foster
rec Radio France, Paris, 23-25 Nov 1996 MARCO POLO 8.225043 [61.13]

Caplet died early of pleurisy perhaps exacerbated by having been gassed in 1916 during the Great War. He is known as an acolyte of Debussy and Ravel and helped the former orchestrate Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien.

Caplet's triptych oratorio is the very antithesis of the British cathedral tradition. It contents itself with harp and strings rather than a bloated orchestra. The choir sings with light and delicacy. Ravel's Ma Mère l'Oie and the Trois Poèmes de Charles d'Orléans would be an approximation of Caplet's language but to strike a closer balance other echoes (and predictions) need to come in. The string orchestra has about it the gossamer of Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The vocal line, both in solo and choir, touches Finzi, Howells and Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia. It is however much more varied than these references might suggest. The score also takes in chant, declamation and sprechgesang (track 18 - 03.10); the latter as emotionally devastating as the tenor's spoken words in Warlock's The Curlew.

The three parts of the Triptych are: Miroir de Joie, Miroir de Peine, Miroir de Gloire. Each panel is launched by a substantial prélude and succeeded by seven sung poems. The devotional poems tracing the life of Christ are by Henri Ghéon. The settings capture a silky ecstasy comparable with the Fauré Requiem though more buoyant and flexible. There is a lively and varied beauty in the writing which can remind you of Finzi's Dies Natalis and Vaughan Williams' Flos Campi. Bells seem to peal in a round-dance of joy in the Prélude to the final panel and in its Couronnnement au ciel.

The recording is sensitively contrived and all the performers engage at every level with the music which is nothing short of a twentieth century masterwork unaccountably overlooked until now. Desnoues and the Radio France choir are superb in the conveyed sense of wonder and beauty. I do not exaggerate. Do try this gloriously turned and sensuously devotional revel in the senses.


Rob Barnett

NOTE - I have recently reviewed an Harmonia Mundi disc of Caplet's Quintet for piano and winds


Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

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