Chausson: Incidental Music: La légende de Sainte Cécile; La tempête

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Incidental Music: La légende de Sainte Cécile; La tempête
PERFORMER: Isabelle Vernet, Raphaëlle Farman, Marie-Ange Todorovitch (soprano), Laurence Dale (tenor), François Le Roux (baritone), Jean-Philippe Lafont (baritone), Christian Crenne (violin); Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
These two works mixing vocal and orchestral items are derived from incidental music for Maurice Bouchor’s La légende de Sainte Cécile and Shakespeare’s The Tempest composed in 1892 and 1888 respectively. In the first, we are in the land of St Cecilia and her celestial celesta (I thought she was always pictured with an organ). The instrument’s tinkles seem to appear at every opportunity in the sequence of interminable angelic choruses, with the only dramatic moment in the earthly chorus’s condemnation of the saint at her death. Isabelle Vernet as the patron saint of music is slightly vocally uncomfortable and the chorus has its shaky moments, too.


Much better, as music and as a performance, is the score for The Tempest. The text sounds unusual in French – Ariel’s ‘Come unto the yellow sands’, ‘Full fathom five’ and ‘Where the bee sucks’ become ‘Sur le sable d’or’ and ‘Ton père git à cinq brasses profondes’ and ‘Avec l’abeille je butine’ – but Chausson’s settings are imaginative and the solo singing by Laurence Dale as Ariel and François Le Roux as Stephano is superb. The orchestra is fuller than in Ste Cécile, too, and gives Chausson more imaginative scope, amply taken advantage of by Kantorow and the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. Not the equal of Sibelius’s Tempest score, perhaps, but enjoyable nonetheless. Matthew Rye