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Caplet: Les Oeuvres Pour Vents / Ensemble Initium

Caplet / Ensemble Initium / Wagschal / Ardeo
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Timpani   Catalog #: 1202   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  André Caplet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Initium
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAPLET Suite persane. Two Pieces. Légende. Quintet for Piano and Winds Ens Initium; Qrt Ardeo; Laurent Wagschal (pn) TIMPANI 1C1202 (62:03)

The liner notes to this release begin with an unattributed quote that André Caplet (1875–1925) was “a link between Debussy and Messiaen.” This is arguable about his later music, but it isn’t in any case what we get on this release. This is early Caplet, around Read more the turn of the century, and the Two Pieces and Suite persane might best be described as a link between Gounod and Massenet. There’s little sense of character in these largely impersonal works whose thematic and harmonic clichés loom large. A keen feeling for texture is their strongest feature. (The three movements of the Suite persane have some melodic attractiveness at their disposal, but it is borrowed. The melody that forms the basis of the second movement, for example, also turns up in Borodin and Granville Bantock.)

The Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano is far larger and more ambitious in scope. The most attractive things in it are an Adagio that looks to Fauré, and a folk-scherzo that strongly recalls d’Indy at his least pretentious. For the rest, there’s an overreach of technical display found among many young composers—particularly notable in the way Caplet extends the bridges in his development sections into development sections of their own, sometimes of little point. The composer’s constant recourse to imitative entries is attractively handled if over done, and interesting as a signal to the last phase of his career, when freely tonal counterpoint would become an important element in his finest music.

The Légende for saxophone, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and string quintet of 1904 is the latest and most mature work on this disc. It owes its origin to Elise Hall, a wealthy Bostonian music lover who had suffered a loss of hearing following a bout of typhoid. She subsequently learned to play the saxophone in an attempt to stimulate her inner ear, and commissioned music for her efforts—not just from Caplet, but from d’Indy, Schmitt, Huré, and Debussy, as well. Caplet resolved on an extended scherzo, slow/fast/slow/fast/slow, with its slow material sharing a common identity. Some harmonic procedures and delayed entries point to the composer’s study of Wagner, but the work is overlong, and its faster sections are of the kind that mistake endlessly scurrying figures for wit.

All the musicians on this disc are relatively young professionals active in France. They display real empathy for these works, with strong attention to personal phrasing and balance between the instruments. I would single out pianist Laurent Wagschal for praise, his touch reminiscent of Aldo Ciccolini—though in fact he studied with Yvonne Loriod and Michel Beroff. Also fine are clarinetist François Lemoine and saxophonist Cédric Carcelès in the Légende , each with a cool, lean tone that never seems under pressure regardless of the technical demands placed upon it.

The engineering deserves its parcel of praise, too. Four different instrumental arrangements, a mix of strings, winds, and piano that’s just inviting bad balance and acoustics—yet none of that occurs. The acoustic never draws attention to itself, and the balance always seems natural. There are some other classical labels that could learn much from Timpani in this respect.

Worth getting? For the central movements of the Quintet and the Légende , possibly so. Caplet was a truly late bloomer who only really developed in the last few years of his sadly abbreviated life. This music is for the most part less attractive for itself, in my opinion, than as a harbinger of things to come.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Suite Persane by André Caplet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Initium
Period: 20th Century 
Rêverie et Petite Valse by André Caplet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Initium
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; France 
Quintet for Piano and Winds by André Caplet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Initium
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1898-1900; France 
Légende by André Caplet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Initium
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 

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