Paroles à l'absent

Paroles à l'absent
Paroles à l'absent

Paroles à l'absent - Caplet, Chausson, Ravel et Boulanger

  1. Chant funèbre, Op.28 (1897) - Ernest Chausson 05:54 For female choir and piano
  2. Kyrie, Messe à trois voix (1919) - André Caplet 03:44 For female a cappella choir
  3. Inscriptions champêtres (1914) - André Caplet 08:04 For female a cappella choir
  4. D'un vieux jardin (1914) - Lili Boulanger 02:45 Trois pièces pour piano
  5. Gloria, Messe à trois voix (1919) - André Caplet 06:42 For female a cappella choir
  6. Chanson perpétuelle, Op.37 (1898) - Ernest Chausson 07:14 For solo soprano, piano and string quartet
  7. D'un jardin clair (1914) - Lili Boulanger 02:05 Trois pièces pour piano
  8. Sanctus , Messe à trois voix (1919) - André Caplet 03:27 For female a cappella choir
  9. Cortège (1914) - Lili Boulanger 01:32 Trois pièces pour piano
  10. Agnus dei, Messe à trois voix (1919) - André Caplet 02:19 For female a cappella choir
  11. Chant nuptial, Op.15 (1887) - Ernest Chausson 04:44 For female choir and piano
  12. Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis (1915) - Maurice Ravel 03:00 For solo soprano, solo alto, female choir, piano and string quartet
  13. O salutaris , Messe à trois voix (1919) - André Caplet 02:43 For female a cappella choir
  14. Pie Jesu (1918) - Lili Boulanger 04:26 For solo soprano, string quartet and piano

Total timing    58:42

Paroles à l’absent

After a poem collection by Jean Frederic Aubry (1882-1950) set to music by Andre Caplet in 1908)

"Words to the absent one…" pays a tribute to the musical creativity of the pre-war era, when aesthetic trends, literary, choreographic and pictural arts were closely interwoven.

Still tinged with a certain recklessness, this period developed several artistic movements - Art nouveau, symbolism, fauvism and expressionism to mention but a few. Through the perspectives of women from 1890 to 1920, this program is a trip in the spirit and the preoccupations of a time paradoxically both quiet and soft, and threateningly worrying. These 'Words to the Absent one…' are brushstrokes, cries from the heart, photographs, choreographic impulses or even soft prayers muttered by women…

This emulation gives birth to a musical aesthetics based on an exaltation of nature and its colours, an imaginaire where the Orient and the Antiquity merge through the evocation of mysticism and even religiosity, to a certain extent, in an often joyous, naive or melancholy tone.

The chosen pieces are all essentially feminine in character. They were written for women singers, voicing the prayer of a lonely woman, celebrating Nature in the incarnation of the Muses, composed by a woman, celebrating the union or paying a tribute to the dying one...

Les paroles de l'absent

Odilon Redon - La dame aux fleurs — 1890-95

At a time when female dance and theatre companies were developing, those pieces - coinciding with the beginning of the suffragette movement - foreshadow a liberation of the body. It was therefore strongly symbolical to choose only female singers and musicians for this programme.

The voices, both soft and fleshy find a perfect companion in the soft and intimate sound of the historical gut-string quartet, or the light and bright touch of the 1897 Erard pianoforte.

In this context, composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), the first woman to ever be awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1913, was an obvious choice.

Although she met with an early death, her prolific work leaves us with many jewels, including this Pie Jesu, an intense and sober prayer, filled with hope, which we offer here in a new solo soprano, string quartet and piano setting. The strength and the commitment of this piece are miles away from the famous Pie Jesu composed by her teacher Gabriel Fauré, although the almost infantile quality of the voice required by the piece is certainly redolent of the influence of the master. Her last work, it seems to us to be inevitably branded by the pain of the war.

The 1914 piano pieces depict the many aspects of her joyful personality, influenced by folk music (Cortège), Debussy (D'un jardin clair), and post-romanticism (D'un vieux jardin).

This diversity of languages brings me to André Caplet, a central composer in this recording. This faithful friend of Claude Debussy's (of which he orchestrated many works) was also a brilliant conductor (first in Boston, then at the Paris Opera house). He composed mostly from 1914 onwards, in spite of his desire to commit to the army after the declaration of war.

From this period were born his vocal pieces: Inscriptions champêtres and Messe à trois voix, also known as Messe des petits de Saint-Eustache-la-Forêt. When it was first performed in December 1917, in the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier (Comédie Française), concert-organiser Jane Bathori admitted that a large number of rehearsals were necessary to give justice to this delicate piece. 'We had thirty-two rehearsals of this difficult piece, there were at least ten bomb alerts which forced the female singers to go home, sometimes far away, by foot through the underground passages.

Inscription champêtres has here been recorded in a version for three soloists and a female choir, depicting the four seasons with a candor and a grace typical of its author's refinement. In 1919, as André Caplet went back to live in Saint Eustache la Forêt, the quiet countryside and the nearby rhythm of the sea, familiar to him since his childhood in Normandy, inspired the composition of his mass for sopranos.

Caplet´s protean work can be defined by its free inspiration, but also by a mysticism conducive to evasion and a dialogue with the elements of nature.

Les paroles de l'absent

Georges de Feure - Mélancolie - 1895

Although not an exact contemporary of Chausson's, we wished to add a few of the latter's less known pieces, matching in spirit the aesthetics of his successors. He celebrates in those pieces his loved one, first joyfully in Chant Nuptial, then sadly in Chant funèbre. This is the first recording of these touchingly simple and elegant pieces.

With Chanson perpétuelle, Chausson develops a more popular and sensitive style, with the help of surrealist poet Charles Cros, who would later inspire even Juliette Gréco in her song Berceuse...

Ernest Chausson, just like André Caplet, had befriended Claude Debusy. He died aged 44, ignorant of the twentieth century and its great war, leaving a very personal sum of compositions.

Next to those authors still too little known and too little played stands the unavoidable Maurice Ravel, a genius for colours and French refinement. His choral works are limited to three songs for mixed choir, of which there also exists a solo soprano and piano version. We wished to operate a synthesis from those two versions involving all the actors of this programme, singers, instrument players, soloists. The poem Trois beaux oiseaux du paradis, written by Ravel himself, depicts a woman learning the death of her friend during the war - a message carried by three birds, blue as the sky, white as snow and vermilion as blood... Again, the sonorities and the text illustrate a period and underline an attachment to folk music.

By transcribing and arranging Ravel's piece, we partake in this creative spirit, and contribute to the natural and sensitive evolution of music.

(…) And I felt my hands empty and sorry
While next to me
The sea cried like your voice
On the unforgettable night when you left.

Ce sable fin et fuyant (from Paroles à l’absente) - Jean Frédéric Aubry (1882-1950)

Behind the scenes of the recording session

Les paroles de l'absent

Simon-Pierre BESTION, conductor

Born in 1988, Simon-Pierre Bestion starts his education with organ, which he studies with Michel Bourcier in Nantes Regional Conservatory of Music. After obtaining his prize of organ and music theory in 2008, he studies analysis and composition in Aubervilliers-La Courneuve Regional Conservatory, and is actually improving his piano in Mélodie and Lied repertory with Françoise Tillard.

Starting his specialization in Early Music with Daniel Cuiller (stradivaria), Simon-Pierre perfects his skills in harpsichod and basso continuo in Boulogne-Billancourt Regional Conservatory, with Laure Morabito and Frédéric Michel.

Simon-Pierre also participates in several masterclasses in organ or harpsichord run by Jan-Willem Jansen, Francis Jacob, Benjamin Alard, Martin Gester or Aline Zylberach. In 2006 he is finalist of the organ international competition of Béthune.

Expanding the scope of his activities, he gets deeply interested in choir conduction, which he starts studying in Nantes with Valérie Fayet ( Orchestre des Pays de la Loire choir): she gives him the passion for vocal work and repertory, which leads him to enter the CNSMD Lyon with Nicole Corti (Chœur Britten) until he obtains his diploma in 2012. Besides choir conduction, he studies singing with Dominique Moaty (CRR Aubervilliers-La Courneuve) and Françoise Biscara (CNSMD Lyon).

His passion for the sound of the choir also leads him to work with famous conductors such as Régine Théodoresco (Calliope), Roland Hayrabédian ( Musicatreize), Geoffroy Jourdain (les Cris de Paris), Joël Suhubiette (les Eléments), Olivier Schneebeli (CMBV), Dominique Visse (Ensemble Clément Janequin) , Claire Levacher, Dieter Kurz, Timo Nuoranne...

From 2009 to 2011, Simon-Pierre is assistant-conductor and continuo player for the ensemble Le Palais Royal (dir. Jean-Philippe Sarcos). He now collaborates regularly with the ensemble les Cris de Paris (dir. Geoffroy Jourdain) and the Insula Orchestra (dir. Laurence Equilbey), as harpsichordist and organist. With these Ensembles he plays in famous festivals such as la Chaise-Dieu, Sablé-sur-Sarthe, l’Épau, Auvers-sur-Oise and la Cité de la Musique and Les Bouffes du Nord in Paris.

In 2007, Simon-Pierre creates the ensemble Europa Barocca, and in 2008 the choir Luce del canto. With these two professional ensembles, he explores ten centuries of music, with a preference for baroque and contemporary repertoire, always on period instruments. The complementarity of those two ensembles leads them to regularly collaborate for eclectic programs such as the Vespro de la BeataVerginaof Monteverdi, Trauermusik of J.L. Bach (available in CD), Magnificat of J.S. Bach…

Choir Luce del Canto

A moving choir

In 2008, Simon-Pierre Bestion creates with singer friends the Luce del Canto Choir, professional ensemble whose members share the same desire : to support the choir repertory, from the middle-ages until now.

The choir personality

Valuing the variety of timbers and personalities of the singers, Simon-Pierre Bestion places the human being in the center of music. That’s how the choir tends to build its identity, looking for an incarnated sound, caracterised by its warmth and variety of colors. Whether a cappella, with orchester or with few instruments, it is above all the choir’s voice which counts : a finally unique voice and breath, which uses at best the diversity of each singer’s artistic identity.

A moving choir

Luce del Canto likes encounters, mixing people and styles. It thus regularly associates with stage directors, dancers and actors who feed its vision of music as a « living performance ». Luce’s interpretation is consequently carnal and organic, and aims at creating an atmosphere for each repertoire. The choir is thus often trying to get into the movement and spacialisation –always subtle- that can be felt in each composer’s music. The directed choir thus becomes the director of the music it interprets, which leads each singer into being deeply and individually involved.

A vast repertory

Luce explores with a demanding passion music of all the ages : the Middle-Ages (Cantigas de Santa Maria, Pérotin…), the Renaissance ( Brumel, Desprez, Machaut, de Rore…), the Italian (Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Rossi, Rigatti…), German (JS Bach, JL Bach…) or English Baroque (Purcell),as well as romantic Lieder (Schubert, Brahms, Wolf…). In parallel, Luce also likes to defend music of great composers of the XXth century (Boulanger, Caplet, Chausson, Fauré, Ravel, Stravinsky, Poulenc, Messiaen, Barber, Britten, Bernstein) and of our contemporaries (Florentz, Villeneuve, Ohana, Tavener, Pärt, Pécou, Hersant or Dufour).


Europa Barocca was born in 2007 in Nantes, from the meeting of young musicians who shared the same passion for the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries music. Julie Dessaint playing viola da gamba and Simon-Pierre Bestion playing harpsichord, organ and directing the ensemble are at the origin of the group, joined by other singers and instrumentists for repertoires going from chamber music to orchestral pieces gathering up to sixty musicians.

That’s indeed one of the main caracteristics of this ensemble : appart from favouring vocal music, Europa Barocca knows how to support intimate repertoires as well as large-scale programs. It thus regularly offers big productions in collaboration with other artistic structures, thus managing to reach its leading goals of innovation and creation.

As such, one can remember in 2010 the runing of F.L. Gassman’s Opera Seria, in coproduction with NEO (New European Opera) ; in 2011, the Vespro della beata Vergine of Monteverdi, in association with Luce del Canto Choir, the Children’s choir of the Musical Institut of Vendée, a dancer and an actor; in 2012, the recreation of J-L Bach’s oratorio Trauermusik and i 2013-14 of a program gathering J-S Bach’s Magnificat and Missa Brevis in B minor and Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat and Orient & Occident, both with Luce del Canto Choir.

Europa Barocca indeed refuses to be limited and defined by a single repertoire, a single period or country. Its main concern is rather to illustrate the initial essence of the music by playing on period-instruments and respecting the composer’s desires and singularity ; thus being able to explorate pieces from the baroque as well as from the XXth and XXIst centuries.

Les paroles de l'absent

Sopranos :

Camille Chagnon
Ellen Giacone solist in Agnus dei
Marie Picaut solist in Pie Jesu et Inscriptions champêtres
Evelyn Vergara

Mezzo-sopranos :

Alice Kamenezky
Armelle Marq solist in Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis
Anne Perissé solist in Chanson perpétuelle
Marion Thomas solist in Inscriptions champêtres

Altos :

Cécile Banquey
Anne-Lou Bissières solist in Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis
Mathilde Gatouillat solist in Inscriptions champêtres
Célia Stroom

Violins : Cyrielle Eberhardt, Sophie Iwamura

Viola : Lika Laloum

Cello : Gulrim Choi

Piano : Aya Okuyama


Executive Producer: Clothilde Chalot

Recording Producer & Balance Engineer : Hannelore Guittet

Editing & Mixing: Hannelore Guittet & Lucie Bourély

Photos: Hubert Caldaguès

Recorded in Boulogne in april 2014