Caplet: Le miroir de Jésus / Arman, Munich Radio Orchestra
Le miroir de Jésus (The Mirror of Jesus) for mezzo-soprano, women's choir, strings and harp, the last major work composed by the French composer André Caplet in the spring and summer of 1923 and based on fifteen poems by the French writer Henri Ghéon, was subtitled "Mystères du rosaire" (Mysteries of the Rosary). The mystical work, whose form and genre defy the usual categorizations, revolves around the most important stations in the life of Jesus, told from the perspective of the Virgin Mary and mirrored, as it were, in her gaze. Each of the three parts consists of an extended instrumental prelude and five episodes. The first begins with the Annunciation, recounts the Visitation of Mary, the birth of Christ and his time in the Temple of Jerusalem. The second part turns to the mysteries of pain: Jesus' scourging, the crown of thorns, the way of the cross and the agony, and finally his death. The last part reflects on the "Glorious Mysteries": Jesus's Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost and finally Assumption and Coronation.
A mezzo-soprano takes on the perspective of Mary. Occasionally the voice changes to recitation or even recitative, but the singing always serves the text, guaranteeing its comprehensibility and at the same time interpreting the words through musical means. Later, the choir introduces the respective poem titles and also emerges at a few points that are all the more significant: at the end of the first rosary, it reinforces the message of Ghéon's text with a Latin biblical quotation, and later on with eulogies such as "Sanctus" and "Alleluia". In "Le miroir de Jésus", Caplet found a musical form for the mysteries of the ancient passion story that brings together past and present into a peaceful synthesis.
Le Miroir de Jésus was André Caplet’s last major completed work, composed two years before his early death at the age of 46.
Caplet’s writing is precise and considered, and his accomplished use of melancholic presentiment – as in the Nativité of the First Part – possesses a simplicity, and yet a directness, that proves consistently compelling. His handling of what are deliberately reduced orchestral forces of strings and a harp reveals a master orchestrator. Incidents such as the rippling water evocations in the Présentation simply reinforce his command of impressionist-derived devices put to his own use.
Arman and the Munich Radio Orchestra catch the spare unisons in Part Two’s Prélude and they expand density over the final bars the better to explore the Gregorian implications of the succeeding Agonie au Jardin. Over this section one encounters reflective lyricism and much beauty as well as terse, jagged writing in the scene where Christ is crowned with thorns.
The richness and variety of his imagination is palpable throughout and in the Prélude to Part Three Arman ensures that Caplet’s presaging of elements of minimalism is clear even as Caplet generates a halo-like subtlety after the Resurrection scene. The spiritual intensity reaches a transcendence and moving intensity, the women of the choir of Bavarian Radio exuding exultant echo effects as the work draws to a close, Vondung both speaking and then singing rapturously with choral support.
The performance is beautifully balanced and is taken from a live performance in the Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Munich – not that one would know it’s live, as there’s no audience noise audible. Vondung is a splendid exponent, as she has proved in Baroque Passions and cantatas on disc, whose mezzo provides a sympathetic and rich-voiced conduit both for Ghéon’s texts and for Caplet’s richly varied, spiritually charged music.
Arman paces the work perfectly drawing out its radiance as well as its ethereal beauties, and – occasionally – its more harmonically astringent elements.
There’s a good booklet and full texts are provided in French with German and English translations.
-- MusicWeb International
Release Date: February 03, 2023
Catalog Number: BRK900342
Label: BR Klassik
Number of Discs: 1
Period: 20th Century
Composer: Andre Caplet
Conductor: Howard Arman
Orchestra/Ensemble: Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Muenchner Rundfunkorchester
Performer: Anke Vondung
Le miroir de Jésus, mystères du Rosaire
Composer: André Caplet
Ensemble: Munich Radio Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Chorus
Performer: Anke Vondung (Mezzo-Soprano)
Conductor: Howard Arman