César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Les Béatitudes - Poème Musical (1869-79) [99:58]
Denise Monteil (soprano) - L'ange du pardon; Simone Couderc (mezzo) - La Vierge; Mona Kerys (contralto) - Une mère; Christiane Chantal - L'orphelin; Denise Joly (alto); Jean Brazzi (tenor) - Beatitude I; André Jonquères (baritone) - Le Christ; Louis Maurin (baritone) - L'ange de la mort; Xavier Depraz (bass I) - Satan; Pierre Marret (bass II) - solo
Pierre Cochereau (organ)
Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur
Petites Chanteurs de Chaillot/Roger Thirot
L'Académie Symphonique de Paris/Jean Allain
rec. 1972? ADD
EDITIONS CHARLIN CL340 [54:56 + 45:02]

Franck's vast musical tapestry Les Beatitudes is not heard all that often – at least not in the UK – perhaps things are different in France? Somehow it's just not right that he should have written such a work. Organ music - yes; chamber and orchestral works - yes, though not much of that. But big oratorios? In fact he wrote a few including Ruth (1845), The Tower of Babel (1865) and Redemption (1875) the latter recorded by Plasson for Pathé-EMI. This nine-movement piece can be summed up as a fervent and even passionate public-facing prayer or invocation. It's lavish with instrumental detailing and vocal solos. The frankly erotic, even sensuously glowing, pages of his Psyché find some echo here. The Ceux qui pleure movement is cosily warm and honeyed. It is followed by an almost Sibelian Ceux qui ont faim. Gleaming writing for the violins often imparts an internal radiance to the music-making. Speaking of radiance do try the cleanly light-angelic tone of the female choir in the Ceux qui ont le coeur pur movement (CD2, tr. 1).

The scudding strings in the final track of CD1 have plenty of barbed quality with which to engage the ear. The Charlin website makes much of the skills of André Charlin but the praise appears well placed on this showing.

For all its 1970s origins and analogue vintage and despite its 310 artists the sound remains amazingly satisfying with climaxes rendered with grunting impact such that the final pages sound something like Verdi's Dies Irae. The long roster of solo singers has not a dud among them. If their contributions sometimes sound like Puccini we just cannot quibble.

The contextual notes in French and English are by Jean Gallois. The set words, by Mme Colomb, are printed in the booklet but only in the sung French.

This groundbreaking Les Béatitudes returns from LP gehenna and still speaks to us with astonishingly well communicated passion.

Rob Barnett

This groundbreaking and astonishingly passionate Béatitudes returns from LP gehenna.