Composer of 'C'

André Caplet (1878-1925)

A French conductor, composer. Born in Le Havre, on 23 November 1878. He gave his genius such that he won the first prize on violin section at Le Havre concour when he was 9 years old, and entered Le Havre Theater Orchestra at 12 years old. When he was 18, he entered Paris Conservatory to study harmony, piano accompaniment, conposing. Also he learned conducting with Arthur Nikisch in Berlin. in 1899 (he was 21 years old), he was appointed as a director of Saint-Martin Theatre, and two years later in 1901, he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata 'Myrrha' (Then great Ravel was 3rd prize!). Also during this period, he has worked as a conductor of Boston Theater in the United States from 1910-1914. However, his fate was started to be darken by a quirk of fate when he saw army service of the first world war. His body was deadly damaged by german lethal gases. He could not help retiring his positions as the conductors of Paris-Opera Theater, Lamoureux and Coronne Philharmonic orchestras. He passed away at Neuilly-Sur-Seine on 22 April in 1925. His aspect as a composer is still seriously underrated and he is seen as a imitative learner of Debussy. It shuld be because his nature was far from prolific. He was too busy and being damaged to have produced many compositions. Also, he had close relationship with Debussy so he arranged and conducted many of Debussy's works for broaden his friend's fame. However, one should not slip over Debussy commisioned Caplet to arrange many of his works. It crearly proves Debussy totally trusted in Caplet's ability. In fact his compositional diction can be characterized by clearler expression of mysticism and archaism such that Debussy reached in his afterlife, demonstrating his profound skills as a first grade composer of his generation. Undoubtfully, he is one of the top composers who should be re-evaluated (2003©K.S.).(The composer's portrait is kindly provided by an our anonymity colleague. Never bring the photo out from this page)

Main Works

Cantata Myrrha myrrha (1901) <sop, tnr, btn, choir, orch>
Concerto Masque of the 'Read Death' la masque de la mort rouge {=conte fantastique} (1909) <hrp, orch>
Legend legende (1918) <sax, p/orch>
Epiphany epiphanie (1923) <vc, orch>
Chamber Two Pieces deux pièces (1897) <fl, p>
Quintet quintette (1898) <p, fl, ob, cl, bssn>
Persian Suite suite Persane (1900) <fl, ob, cl, hrn, bssn>
A Heap of Small Things un tas de petites chose (1901) <2p>
Improvisations improvisations (1920) <fl, p>
Two Divertimentos deux divertissements (1924) <hrp>
Songs Come! the whispering sound of a flute.. viens! une flûte invisible soupire.. (1900) <msp, p (fl)>
Three Poems trois poèmes (1908) <vo, p>
Solitude solitude (1915) <vo, p>
Two Sonnets deux sonnets (1916/1924) <sop, p/hrp>
A Painful Cross la croix douloureuse (1917) <vo, p>
Distress détresse (1918) <vo, p>
An Old Ditty Box le vieux coffret (1919) <msp, p>
Five French Ballades cinq ballades Françaises (1919) <msp, p>
Three fables of La Fontaine trois fables de La Fontaine (1919) <vo, p>
Sonet of Pierre de Ronsard sonnet de Pierre de Ronsard (1924) <vo, p>
Listen! écoute (1924) <vo, fl>
Septet septuor pour trois voix de femmes et quatuor à cordes (1909) <3vo, 2vln, vla, vc>
Pastoral Inscription inscription champêtres (1914) <choir>
The Prayers les prières (1914) <vo,org>
Angel Baskets panis angelicus (1919) <msp, choir, vln, vc, hrp, org>
Compassionate Jesus pie Jésu (1919) <vo, org>
Mass in Three Voices messe à trois voix (1920) <choir>
Oratorio 'Mirror of Jesus' le miroir de Jésus (1923) <msp, hrp, choir, hrn, vln, vla, vc>

Caplet Disc Review

"Chamber Music :
Quintette / Deux Pièces / Improvisations / Suite Persane" (Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm: MDG 603 0599-2)

CALAMUS-ENSEMBLE : Dagmar Becker (fl) Kalle Randalu (p) Jutta Frank (fl) Washington Barella (ob) Reinhard Holch (ob) Wolfgang Meyer (cl) Dirk Schultheis (cl) Rainer Schottstädt (bssn) Ruth Krabbe (bssn) David Bryant (hrn) Gerhard Reuber (hrn)
Currently, this disc is the most recommendable one to try to listen Caplet's chamber music. Even though you can find Caplet's chamber music in some other discs, there is no better choice. Because, as for this one, this CD is occupied by Caplet's works throughout, with beautiful performances. The publisher, MDG, is a german label so that the ensemble is also german-centric. Therefore It is reasonable if you wonder whether such german-centric performers can represent Caplet's French-rooted romantic musical diction. But as for this CD, your anxiety will become a needless fear. The performers who are all active as the members of various chamber ensembles or orchestras, were used to be the members of German Youth Orchestra in 1960s. In other words, this is their triunphal return recording. Therefore, the performance is quite nice. Incidentally, you can find the orchestral version of 'suite persanne' by purchasing a Marco-Polo recording.

"Le Miroir de Jésus / Inscription Champêtres" (Accord: 202332)
Bernard Tetu (direction) Hanna Schaer (msp) Isabelle Moretti (hrp) Solistes des Choeurs de l' Orchestre National de Lyon : Quatuor Ravel : Michaël Chanu (b)
'Mirror of Jesus' is an epic religious work consist of 3 parts / 18 pieces. This is one of the most frequently recorded compositions of Caplet so that you can find, at least, 4 rival performances. In fact, we just came to have another choice from Maro-Polo label recently. We can easily grasp his best features such as high densities of self-communion, mysticism, archaism, and impressionistic diction in this seminal work, so that we can see this is one of the best works of Caplet. The director, Bernard Tetu, is one of the foremost authorities on French religious music in nowadays. The two Accord discs reviewed here - both are directed by Mr. Tetu - are truly not only the best Caplet recordings ever made, but also the significant milestone of the French-choral music recordings.

Panis Angelicus / Mélodies sur des Poèmes de Rémy de Gourmont, Du Beilay, Ronsard, Paul Fort, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire / Les Prières / Pie Jésu / Messe à Trois Voix" (Accord: 204402)

Bernard Tetu (direction) Hanna Schaer (msp) Solistes des Choeurs de Lyon : Quatuor Ravel : Virginie Pochon (sop) Philippe Bernold (fl) Fabrice Pierre (hrp) Jean-Charles Fregosi (org) Noël Lee (p)
The genres that Caplet's musical character can be best brought to life is certainly choral, religious music, or melodies. In fact, the composer left most of his works in the genres. Currently, the best choices you can purchase in the genre must be the two Accord discs. This disc consists of Caplet's melodies and some religious pieces. Although I agree the opinion that 'Jesus' is one of Caplet's best works, I think this one is the better choice for your first Caplet. Because the former half is occupied by songs in typical format (voice and piano) so that you can grasp his talent without being confused by the unique arrangement of instruments. The conductor, Bernard Tetu is one of three experts (the others are Michel Piquemal and Jean Souleese) of French choral directors in nowadays. His two Accord discs have no equal in their perfection. Although you can purchase another disc issued from Harmonia Mundi (the one is also a great recording), I still would like to recommend this one.

"Le Vieux Coffret / Viens! une Flûte Invisible..* / La Croix Douloureuse / Détresse / Écoute* / Trois Fables de la Fontaine / Cinq Ballades Françaises" (Timpani : 1C1058)
Lionel Peintre (btn) Alain Jacquon (p) Étienne Plasman (fl)*
The disc, which was recently published from Timpani, should be the easiest choice to obtain. The soloist, Mr. Peintre is one of the first call man of Timpani's recordings of modern French melodies. Although he is not internationally famous because of he seems not have been awarded in many international competitions, he is a pupil of R. Crespin in Paris Conservatory and has appeared most of French leading orchestras. Because his voice can be described as brave and hot-blooded tone, it is reasonable if you wonder he is a good choice for Caplet's melodies. But this assortment raised better effect than that of we anxious about. If the atmosphere of two Accord discs can be described as the music of goddesses in Athens of ancient Greek era, the sound of this disc can be compared to Ancient Roman interrogator. Although many of the contents are piled up with Accord discs, the latter three tunes (start from 'La Croix Douloureuse') are rare recording so that we can listen (as far as I know) only in this disc. Even though these tunes are difficult to be reccomended without any condition attached such that 'Croix' sounds like it is a study piece of 'Vieux Coffret' and the title 'Ditresse' just seems to represent the substance, still these are worth to be listened. 'Ecoute' is his last work and intend to be performed by voice with flute. It sounds the most orient and introspective one.

"Conte Fantastique / Les Prières / Divertissements pour Harpe / Deux Sonnets / Septuor pour Trois Voix de Femmes et Quatuor à Cordes" (Harmonia Mundi: HMC 901417)
Sharon Coste, Sandrine Piau (sop) Sylvie Deguy (msp) Laurence Cabel (hrp) Ensemble Musique Oblique
This Harmonia Mundi CD is (seems to be) the only comperable disc to Accord's two volume Caplet works not only in its content but also of its quality. It includes Caplet's rarely recorded work 'Septet in 3 Voices and String Quartet'. Although the amount of available choices of Caplet are small, it is very fortunate that most of them are performed good (sometimes nicely performed). Actually, 'Trois Prieres' sounds a bit inferior than Accord performance. But 'Deux Sonetts' shows its highness in quality. The soprano, Ms. Sandrine Piau, sings more orthodox than that of Ms.Virginie Pochon's somewhat childish voice color (of course her performance is evenly great though. therefore this is just the issue of your preferance). Therefore it makes no problem to purchase this as the first choice, if you can not find Accord one. The ensemble (Music Oblique) played more bravely. The way of performance makes another contrast to Accord's chamber ensemble.

"Prix de Rome Cantatas :
Myrrha / Tout est Lumière (Caplet) / Le Printemps (Debussy) / L'aurore / Matinère Les Bayadères /La Nuit (Ravel)" (Marco Polo: 8.223755)

Jacques Grimbert (conductor) Sharon Coste, Brigitte Desnoues, Gaële Le Roi (sop) Marc Duguay (tnr) Jean-François Lapointe (btn) Choeur et Orchestre de Paris-Sorbnne
This disc includes the cantatas written by Caplet, Ravel and Debussy for subscribing for the prestigious Prix de Rome (Roman Prize) competiton. The Caplet's 'Myrrha' is the work that has brought the author's fame by obtaining First Roman Prize (even Ravel could get only 3rd prize in the same year!!). These cantatas are their youthful study works so that the recordings are rarely be found. Therefore this recording (occupied by their works written in Roman era) is really precious one. These cantatas are less impressionistic and fairly impersonal, maybe because of compromising the referees' favor or their compositional ability were still in progress. These sounds far more D'indy or Franck-rooted manner rather than impressionistic one. Although Debussy and Ravel tends to be highlighted as a representative impressionistic composers, we should not easily conclude that they are only prominent innovators and the impressionistic manner was accomplished solitary by their abilities. This disc clearly indicates an evidence. By listening this disc, we know the fact that Caplet was composing the equally sophisticated works comparing with those of Debussy and ravel, at least around that period. Yes, impressionistic diction was completed by the interactions of major to minor composers of that era. Performers of this disc are also good. Especially, the sopranos are nice above all.

"A Saxophone for a Lady :
Rapsodie / Petite Pièce (Debussy) Légende (Caplet) Choral Varié (D'indy) Légende / Songs de Coppélius (Schmitt) Sonatine (Ravel)" (BIS : CD-1020)

Claude Delangle (sax) Odile Delangle (p)
There was a lady in Boston around the beginning of the last century. Her name is Elisa Hall (1853-1924). Her husband was a chirurgeon. Because her husband was a local celebrity, the family was wealthy so she could start playing saxophone for her health. Later on, she became a chairwoman of Boston Orchestra Club. Then she started to commission European composers to write the saxophone works for her to play. The title 'A Saxophone for a Lady' (which implies this is a wimpy omnibus album) stands for the historical fact in really, and the lady on the front cover of this album is Ms.Hall. Yes, this is a serious classical disc. Also, the selection of performers is also serious enough. They two teach instruments in Paris Conservatory. Although the format, piano accompaniment, sounds something is missing for a bit, the soloist perfectly controlls the saxophone. His tone sounds softer than velure with some amorous scent. This performance of the saxophone is among the best what I have heard in the last few years.Also, the selection of the tunes seem fascinating. Debussy's 'piece', Caplet's 'legende', and Schmitt's 'Coppelius' are all very rare.

"La Chute de la Maison Usher (Debussy) / Le Masque de la Mort Rouge (Caplet) / Étude pour 'le palais hanté' (Schmitt)" (EMI : CDM 7 64687 2)
Georges Prêtre (cond) Christine Barbaux (sop) François Le Roux (btn) Pierre-Yves Le Maigat (btn-bass) Jean-Philippe Lafont (btn) Frédérique Cambreling (hrp) Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo
Caplet's 'Conte Fantastique' is one of the most frequently performed piece, especially in chamber ensemble format. However, this bias in amount of the recordings may create a potential pitfall. Because, if you try it with the format, you will find that sounds spooky and hysterical. This disc includes the rare orchestral version of the work (in orchestral format, this piece should be renamed as 'La Masque de la Mort Rouge'). If you already know this piece with frequently-performed version, you will be surprised the orchestral version sounds totally different. Yes, the version has Honegger or Martin-like coolness in harmonic content. Therefore, as for this piece, I would like to recommend the orchestral version. This rare recording of orchestral version is performed by a French famous conductor G. Pretre. This must be a definite edition. You may ask me where the selection of tunes come from. Yes, the three pieces included here are all based on Edgar A. Poe's gothic novel.

Trois Fables de Jean de La Fontaine / Pie Jésu / Cinq Ballades Françaises / Trois Poèmes de Georges Jean-Aubry / La 'Part à dieu'" (Unicorn-Kanchana: DKP-CD9142)

Claudette LeBlanc (sop) Boaz Sharon (p)
A Canadian soprano Claudette LeBlanc forms a good pair with Boaz Sharon and she has a favor for re-evaluating modern rare compositions. This attitude is very valuable. In fact, she has also recorded Koechlin's rare songs from Hyperion label, and you can not find no more than few recordings abailable currently. Yes, the favor makes her existence priceless. We can not easily complain the quality...but... Unfortunately, her ability of performance is not superior than her enthusiasm. First of all, her dialect of French sounds strange. She pronounce R's by rolling her's tongues too stronglly. Is it a Canadian dilect? I do not know. All that I can say is 'it is just rudeness'. Also, her voice (tone) quality is difficult to be praised. Maybe her voice was excellent when she was a young soprano singer, but now.. the voice is resonated with her throat which already became chubby. The piano accompaniment by Mr. Sharon has overuse of pedals. If you have not heard any Caplets, it is hard for me to recommend this as your first choice.

"'Robert Casadesus Plays...' Jeux d'eau (Ravel) / Quatuor No.1 / Prelude No.5 / Impromptu No.5 (Faure) / Cerdana - le retuor des muletiers (Severac) / Sonate pour Violoncelle et Piano (Debussy) / l'epiphanie (Caplet) / Sonate pour Flute et Piano (Casadesus) / Scherzo-Valse (Chabrier)" (EPM : 150072)
Robert Casadesus (p) Rene LeRoy (fl) Maurice Marechal (vc) Calvet Quartet
Robert Casadesus is one of the top pianists in France around the former half of the last century. Although he left Debussy and Ravel in his afterlife, The performance (recently re-issued via Sony) cruelly indicate his ability of performance have passed far from his prime era. Even though this CD is re-edited press as an omnibus, the recording still has some merit at the point that you can listen his golden age (in 1920-1930s). You will be surprized to listen how he once played greately in his heyday. As for caplet, this CD encloses a piece named 'Dance of Small Black Child' extracted from 'Epiphanie'. Although the song is very much hysteric such that the composer is tearing his hair out so that hard to be loved, the performance itself is beautiful.

(English Translation 2003. 5. 7)