This disc of early choral works by Bizet is likely to be of interest primarily to the composer's fans. The cantata Clovis et Clotilde, written in 1857 when he was 18, won the Prix de Rome, and he wrote the Te Deum while in Rome in 1858. Both works show remarkable assurance for a composer so young. A precocious talent, he had written his popular Symphony in C when he was 17. The cantata, like the vast majority of pre-modern Prix de Rome winners, was written to fulfill a rigid set of procedural expectations that rarely unleashed a composer's most creative efforts. (Debussy's L'Enfant prodigue is perhaps the only winning piece to have anything close to a place in the repertoire.) Scored for soprano, tenor, baritone, and orchestra, Clovis et Clotilde concerns the fifth century Frankish king whose conversion assured the primacy of the Roman Church in the region. The music is reminiscent of French and Italian opera of the era, and while it is not particularly distinguished or memorable, it does offer evidence of Bizet's gifts as a dramatic composer. In the equally operatic Te Deum, for soprano, tenor, chorus, and orchestra, Bizet's debt to his teacher Gounod is transparent, and particularly recalls the older composer's St. Cecilia's Mass, with which Bizet was intimately familiar. The performances do not make particularly strong cases for the music. Tenor Philippe Do has a pleasant, open, and resonant voice, but the same cannot be said of the soprano and baritone soloists. Choeur Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Orchestra National de Lille, under the leadership of Jean-Claude Casadesus, deliver earnest performances. Naxos' sound is warm and balanced.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Clovis et Clotilde, cantata|