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A. Caplet: Conte Fantastique (Quatuor Via Nova, Lily Laskine, harp)

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Published on Sep 17, 2012

André CAPLET (1878-1925): Conte fantastique after Edgar Allan Poe's Masque of the Red Death (1919)
Lily Laskine, harp
Quatour Via Nova

André Caplet was born in Le Havre in 1878. He gave his genius such that he won the first prize on violin section at Le Havre concour when he was 9 years old, and entered Le Havre Theater Orchestra at 12 years old. When he was 18, he entered Paris Conservatory to study harmony, piano accompaniment, conposing. Also he learned conducting with Arthur Nikisch in Berlin. in 1899 (he was 21 years old), he was appointed as a director of Saint-Martin Theatre, and two years later in 1901, he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata 'Myrrha' (Then great Ravel was 3rd prize!). Also during this period, he has worked as a conductor of Boston Theater in the United States from 1910-1914. However, his fate was started to be darken by a quirk of fate when he saw army service of the first world war. His body was deadly damaged by german lethal gases. He could not help retiring his positions as the conductors of Paris-Opera Theater, Lamoureux and Coronne Philharmonic orchestras. He passed away at Neuilly-Sur-Seine n 1925. His aspect as a composer is still seriously underrated and he is seen as a imitative learner of Debussy. It shuld be because his nature was far from prolific. He was too busy and being damaged to have produced many compositions. Also, he had close relationship with Debussy so he arranged and conducted many of Debussy's works for broaden his friend's fame. However, one should not slip over Debussy commisioned Caplet to arrange many of his works. It crearly proves Debussy totally trusted in Caplet's ability. In fact his compositional diction can be characterized by clearler expression of mysticism and archaism such that Debussy reached in his afterlife, demonstrating his profound skills as a first grade composer of his generation. Undoubtfully, he is one of the top composers who should be re-evaluated
"The Conte Fantastique (based on Poe's The Masque of the Red Death) is for harp and string quartet. This is a macabre tale told through eerily suggestive and minimalistic music. It carries elements of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro and Debussy's Danses sacrées et Danses Profanes. Strange harmonics careen across the score and whisps and veils of lush sound sweep slowly by. The dancing of the nobleman's court is a vaporous and effete thing rather than vigorous. Much of the writing is very quiet, sighed out, confidingly cackled and whispered. The dénouement when death in the form of the harp is unveiled is magically done. It is like an extension of the creepiest music in The Firebird married with middle-period Schoenberg." (Rob Barnett)

Lily Laskine (August 31, 1893 - January 4, 1988) was one of the most prominent harpists of the twentieth century. The daughter of Russian immigrants to Paris, harpist Lily Laskine was drawn into music by both parents. Her mother was a pianist, and she took up the piano at first. But she took more strongly to the harp, and soon she was practicing the instrument, at her mother's behest, for six hours a day. All one needs to play the harp, Laskine once said, is good fingers and a sacrificed childhood. At age eight, after some jawboning on her mother's part opened the doors, Laskine started lessons with Paris Conservatoire professor Alphonse Hasselmans, and three years later she enrolled at the venerable music school. By 1906 she had won the conservatory's top prize, and she formally embarked on her career at 13, never taking another harp lesson but continuing to absorb music and its lore throughout her life.
What made Laskine a figure strongly identified with the harp over much of the world was her catholic interest in its entire literature, regardless of genre boundaries. She refused to be categorized as a recitalist and sought out opportunities to play wherever they might be found. In 1909, she became the first female member of the Paris Opéra Orchestra, on any instrument. She remained at the Opéra until 1926, also performing with concert series orchestras such as that of the Lamoureux Association and with an orchestra led by conductor Sergey Koussevitsky. In the 1930s Laskine made several European tours and began her recording career, which included both classical and popular releases. She was heard on records with Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, and other greats of French popular song, and she contributed to many film scores. In 1979 she won the Grand Prix du Film Musical for her work on the score for La Leçon de Musique. A duet partner of French flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal for several decades, Laskine continued to perform and record until late in life. Several harp concertos were written for her, and she uncovered unknown historical works for harp such as Gossec's Symphonie concertante for two harps. Laskine served as professor of harp at the Conservatoire from 1948 to 1958, in which year she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

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