ANDRE CAPLET: Conte fantastique for harp and string quartet after “The Mask of the Red Death” Les prieres for vocalist, harp and string quartet; Divertissements for harp; Deux sonnets for soprano & harp; Septuor – Soloists/Ens. Musique – Harmonia mundi

by | Apr 6, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

ANDRE CAPLET: Conte fantastique for harp and string quartet after Edgar A. Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death” Les prieres for vocalist, harp and string quartet; Divertissements for harp; Deux sonnets for soprano & harp; Septuor for three vocalese female voices and string quartet – Sharon Coste, Sandrine Piau, Sylvia Deguy – singers/Ensemble Musique Oblique/Laurence Cabel, harp – Harmonia mundi HMA 1951417 Musique d’abord series, 55:12 ****:

Caplet didn’t have a large output of music, partly due to his early death from complications resulting from his exposure to poison gas during WWI. He had a broad and varied musical career and was a friend of Debussy, whose music made a strong impression on him. He liked creating chamber works with unusual instrumentation and was partial to the recently-perfected French pedal harp.

The Mask of the Red Death was one of two Poe stories which Caplet set to music, reveling in the violent contrasts he could illustrate musically. The harp represents death, and is given loud percussive sounds on its sounding board for the stroke of midnight when the Red Death claims its victims at the ball. The two Divertissements for harp are first one with French theme, a pseudo perpetual movement, and  a second with a Spanish theme inspired by flamenco guitar. Caplet’s Septet is for me the highlight of the disc, perhaps because I’ve always preferred vocalese to sung words. Caplet’s title in French is “Septet for vocal cords and strings.” While the accompaniment is rather mundane, the three voices are given some daring and fascinating sounds that blend well with the string quartet. Hearing this work one can begin to see why some French musicologists feel Caplet to be a sort of bridge from Debussy to Messiaen.

 – John Sunier

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