Le désert (Naïve) Largely forgotten in the sweep of history is Félicien David, the semi-offical composer of the Saint-Simonian movement, which in early-19th-century France sought to balance the march of industrialism with humanistic spirituality. When the government clamped down on the movement, in 1832, David embarked on a searching trip to North Africa and the Middle East. When he returned to France, he devoted himself to “singing of the East,” an impulse in sync with current French tastes for exoticism. The greatest success of his career came in 1844 with Le désert ,a “symphonic ode” for narrator, tenor, men’s choir, and orchestra. This captivating work ostensibly incorporates melodies David encountered in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in his trip. It strikes a contemplative pose as it moves leisurely through three tableaux: a slowly advancing caravan, a nocturnal encampment, and a desert sunrise. The tenor’s “Hymn à la nuit” seems a first cousin to portions of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’éte, while other sections look ahead to the lyricism of Gounod or Bizet. This missing-link composer finds a firm champion in conductor Laurence Equilbey; her recordings move from strength to strength. The Accentus choir, the Paris Chamber Orchestra, and tenors Cyrille Dubois and Zachary Wilder (sharing the solo part) provide elegant, idiomatic performances, and the release comes packaged with two almost identical CDs — one with, the other without, Jean-Marie Winling’s poetic narration.