Conceived by Joseph Nakhlé as a means to bridge Christianity and Islam through music, Le Cercle de l'Extase is an interesting experiment in ecumenism, but less than satisfying in artistic terms. The blending of Roman Catholic and Sufi chants is intriguing in the opening movement, Louanges, but its charm wears off as soon as it becomes clear that all the remaining sections follow suit to varying degrees; Dialogue, Comme un cerf, and Oraisons differ somewhat in the distribution of chant material and instrumental sections, but once the "east meets west" premise of the work is grasped, they seem predictable and uninspired. La Schola Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, directed by Jean-Pierre Noiseux, is smooth in the Latin chants, and Omar Sarmini brings the traditional muezzin style to his solo singing in Arabic. Even so, the merging of these sacred vocal traditions is almost overwhelmed by the lively rhythmic accompaniment provided by the Alep Oriental Orchestra, which dominates the first three arrangements -- one hesitates to call them original compositions -- and throws the whole work out of balance. The whirling dervishes' "circle of ecstasy" is plainly central to Nakhlé's inspiration, and the pulsing dance that builds to a climax in Comme un cerf is the work's highpoint. However, those looking for a western equivalent to match this exciting music will be disappointed, since Christianity is represented here only by Gregorian chants of a rather weak profile. On the whole, Nakhlé's religious stance is unarguable, and this piece either moves the listener or it doesn't; but his aesthetic sense is off, and the artificiality of Le Cercle de l'Extase keeps it from being truly beautiful or spiritually uplifting.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Le Cercle de l'Extase, for chorus & orchestra|