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André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Suite persane (c.1901) [15:40]
Two Pieces for flute and piano (pub.1897) [6:21]
Légende (1904) [13:33]
Wind Quintet (1898-99) [25:57]
Ensemble Initium and Laurent Wagschal (piano: Pieces, quintet) and Quatuor Ardeo (Légende)
rec. September 2012, IRCAM, Paris (Suite persane) and November 2012, Vincennes, Coeur de ville (remainder)
TIMPANI 1C1202 [62:03]

Caplet usually manages to spring surprises and in the field of his wind writing things are no different. It seems strange that Suite persane, though written in 1901, should have had to wait until 1988 for its publication; strange but hardly unique. There is, in parts of this work, a really striking ‘oriental modality’ - the booklet writer’s apposite and concise phrase - that compels rapt attention. Written for a dixtet - 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and 2 horns - the work is performed from time to time, but far more often, inevitably, in Francophone countries. This is a real loss for everyone else as the solemn intensity of the first of the three movements is affecting, and Caplet’s beautifully mellifluous writing in the central movement is richly harmonised. The incident where the horn line is subject to the decorative curl of supporting winds is highly distinctive. And the flute theme in E minor is the same one Granville Bantock took for his Omar Khayyam. Extrovert colour and plenty of incident, propelled by a vivacious rhythmic drive, animates the finale. This beautiful piece deserves listeners.
 
The Wind Quintet is a very slightly earlier work but stylistically it inhabits a very much more ordered and conventional sound world. The manner here is Caplet’s late-Romanticism, though here and there small hints of his more dextrous and elfin writing are to be encountered. The slow movement is dominated by the melancholy that’s launched by the clarinet. Caplet ensures that though the writing is rich, it never becomes clotted. The scherzo is appositely light-hearted, the finale more straight-forwardly determined.
 
The Two Pieces for flute and piano were published in 1897, and dedicated to that giant of French flute playing Georges Barrère by whom they were first performed in 1900 with the composer at the piano. There’s an attractively veiled sadness to the Rêverie and a frolicsome waltz to conclude. The Légende was composed in 1904 and sounds somewhat Debussyan. It was written for solo saxophone and orchestral forces but is here performed as a nonet. The thematic material is strong and the array of colours and strong rhythmic devices evoked significant. The moods are fluid, and changeable, with the warm slow section toward the end a particular highlight.
 
Two recording locations were used in the performances - the Suite persane was taped at IRCAM in Paris - but one really wouldn’t be able to tell. Performances are uniformly fine and sensitive. The highlight of the disc is theSuite persane.
 
Jonathan Woolf