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Félicien César DAVID (1810 - 1876)
Le Désert - Ode Symphonie en trois parties for speaker, solo tenor, male chorus and orchestra (1844 )
Bruno Lazzaretti (tenor); Oliver Pascalin (speaker);
Chor der St-Hedwigs-Kathedrale, Berlin/Roland Bader
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Guido Maria Guida
rec. Berlin, Philharmonie, 15 June, 22 December 1989. first issued 1991.
CAPRICCIO 5017 [51:19]
Experience Classicsonline

Surely it cannot be a coincidence that this exotic reissue from the Capriccio back-catalogue has come just now.

Phoenix Edition, who seem to have access to licences for most of the Capriccio material, have just issued a very idiosyncratic collection of three discs. This draws on late-1980s recordings made by Capriccio on the theme of Les brises d'Orient. The major rarity in that set was Le Sélam by Reyer. You remember Reyer's name? He wrote an opera on Salammbo and a Wagnerian tribute drama called Sigurd - I hope that one day they will be revived and recorded. The strange thing was that aside from packing that Phoenix Edition set with much that was popular and easily available elsewhere they had omitted Le Désert which had formed part of the original series. Here it is now but re-issued on Capriccio.

David did not see the twentieth century, dying in 1876 at the age of 66. His music on this evidence - the only I have heard - is smoothly romantic. It is at times rather like ceremonial grand Berlioz or Verdi's Aida. His Ode symphonie bears a resemblance in broad scheme to the exotic symphonies of Benjamin Godard (1849-1895). who wrote the Symphonie Orientale and Symphonie Gothique which have been recorded in synthesised orchestral versions by Bhagwan Thadani.

After tribulations and tempest the Saharan caravan returns at the end of part 3 to the placid resumption of the journey. There's a touch of stormy upheaval in La tempête au désert. The second part is in six episodes which are calming and only in La Fantaisie Arabe and the La danse des almées is their a hint of exotic colour in the form of jingling janissary music and a measure of seduction. The influence of Berlioz is undeniable in the La liberté du désert. Le chant du Muezzin stands in a hybrid land between the authentic ululation of the call to prayer and French opera of the grand siècle of Meyerbeer and his lavish contemporaries. All in all it's not very exotic but it is interesting. The work ends in a grand Beethovenian unison with the orchestra. I wonder what else of Félicien David has survived?

Lazzaretti's oration is delivered in resoundingly convincing idiomatic French. He acts the text and varies his voice to match. Félicien David is well served here and the disc forms a timely reminder that musical France in the nineteenth century was a far more diverse place than we might expect from the few works recorded and the even fewer actually played.

The little essay is given in German, English and French but the sung and spoken text is in French and German only.

Rob Barnett

Detailed Track-Listing
Part I
1. Entry Into The Desert
2. Song Of The Desert/Glorification Of Allah
3. Appearance Of the Caravan
4. Progress Of The Caravan
5. Storm In The Desert
6. Calm Returns And The Caravan Resumes Its Progress
Part II
7. The Star Of Venus
8. Hymn To The Night
9. Arabian Fantasy
10. Dance Of The Almées
11. Liberty In The Desert
12. Reverie At Evening
Part III
13. Sunrise
14. The Call Of The Muezzin
15. The Caravan Resumes Its Progress
16. The Caravan Disappears Into The Distance
17. Song Of the Desert, Glorification Of Allah 



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