Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement (1923)
Fanfare (1931)
Caprice Péruvien (1938)

Viceroy: Ian Caddy (bar) Martinez: Alexander Oliver (ten) Balthasar: John Winfield (ten) La Périchole: Cynthia Buchan (sop) Thomas d'Esquivel: Thomas Lawlor (bass) Bishop of Lima: Anthony Smith (bass)
BBC Scottish SO/Nicholas Cleobury (Carrosse)
rec Glasgow 16 Aug 1983
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland (Fanfare)
rec London 15 Sept 1999
RTE Sinfonietta/David Lloyd-Jones (Caprice)
rec Dublin 10 Jan 1995
MARCO POLO 8.225155 [79.17]

Berners the eccentric; Berners the eclectic; Berners the wit. None of these headline reputations should blind us to his way with melody or with brilliance. Derivative he may be but he was a bright musical conversationalist with ideas in his head and the 'apparatus' to articulate them.

The opera (Berners' only one) is set in Lima in the office of the Viceroy. It follows the play by Prosper Mérimée. The plot is inconsequential. By the way, the 'Carrosse' is La Périchole's brand new carriage which at the climax of the opera she donates to the Church to bring communion to the sick and dying. This is a busy score teeming with brilliant instrumental activity though not with stunning melody (though it has its moments). Lyrical heart is exposed at 18.33 in Track 6 and at 1.55 (Track 10) amid the bath of spiritual ecstasy as La Périchole announces the gift of the carriage. That said, the singing is generally unshackled from the instrumental line. The music has the swoon of Rosenkavalier with Spanish spit and crackle mingling with opulence. The recording (derived from broadcast tapes I have known since the first broadcast in 1983) is quite forward but natural sounding. It is well acted and pronunciation is clear without being studied; chuckling with vivacity and a proud yet graceful heartiness (as Scene 4 demonstrates). The work ends as abruptly as it started.

La Carrosse would be well teamed with Holst's Wandering Scholar or Perfect Fool, Barber's A Hand of Bridge or Vaughan Williams' Poisoned Kiss (now when will we get a recording of that work?). All texts are sung and printed in English.

The Caprice Péruvien was constructed by Berners as a joint effort with Constant Lambert out of thematic material from the opera. Much of the music comes from scene 6 in which the Viceroy takes coffee and cigars. As Philip Lane says, in the detailed notes, the Caprice can form a prelude to the opera which itself has no overture and otherwise dives straight into the action (as Berners truculently intended). The Caprice is cross-cut with familiar voices and accents: Goossens' brilliance, de Falla's Three-Cornered Hat, Bax's Mediterranean, Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole and even Copland's El Salon Mexico. The RTE Sinfonietta do not have quite the splinter-sharp accuracy called for but it still registers well. A 1980s broadcast by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Philip Ledger and a 1992 broadcast by Barry Wordsworth conducting the much under-estimated BBC Concert Orchestra show that a tighter approach reaps a more bristling harvest. The fanfare is tangy and regal and rings out with conviction.

A very generous disc enjoyable by anyone who is already well attuned to the briskly cosmopolitan language of the 1920s and 1930s. This music has a richer emotional core than you might expect.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit