Notes and Editorial Reviews
Humoresques. Lied and Scherzo. Trois pièces récréatives. Une semain du petit elfe Ferme-l’oeil
Invencia Piano Duo
GRAND PIANO 624 (56:29)
A contemporary of Debussy and Ravel who long outlived them both, Florent Schmitt (1870–1958) was regarded as an important French composer during the early decades of the 20th century, but his importance diminished over time. He composed right up to the end, even so. His final orchestral work was a large-scale Symphony (his Second).
Recordings of his music have been piecemeal. His early ballet score
La tragédie du Salomé
, or rather the Impressionistic tone poem for large orchestra derived from it, has made several appearances on disc over the years, the most recent being from the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under Yan Pascal Tortelier, reviewed by Ronald H. Grames in
35:2. Grames preferred the older Paray and Martinon recordings, as do I. A couple of recordings have surfaced of Schmitt’s rambling
for Piano and Orchestra of 1931, and I have to hand a disc of witty chamber works for wind ensemble featuring members of the Prague Wind Quintet and Czech Nonet, plus a Naxos disc of an impressive Piano Quintet (reviewed by Henry Fogel in
Most of the above sustain more interest than this selection of works for piano duet and piano duo. Schmitt wrote a lot in this genre—this is the fourth disc in the Invencia Duo’s series—and as you might expect, the level of inspiration varies. Every piece is well crafted, and played with sensitivity by pianists Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshin, but these are late works and there is an unshakeable feeling of a composer going through the motions.
A Week in the Life of the Little Elf Shut-eye
, based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, consists of seven short character pieces ranging from quirky to soulful. It is effective enough, but aside from the haunting penultimate movement (
La promenade à traverse le tableau
) it seems second-hand when placed next to Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” Suite, a work that covers much the same ground. Similarly, the
Lied and Scherzo,
op. 54, with its heavy textures and rolled chords, strikes me as more convincing in its original scoring for double wind quintet and solo French horn. The set of pieces entitled
is equally variable: An undernourished
lacks rhythmic variety and, here and elsewhere, the occasional wrong-note harmonies and contrapuntal accompanying figures seem calculated, as though Schmitt was trying to imitate the younger Poulenc and Milhaud (but failing to match the individuality of either).
As I say, the Invencia Duo make the best possible case for Schmitt’s music and are warmly and clearly recorded, so if you are collecting this series do not hesitate. It could be that earlier works included in the previous three volumes are fresher and more inspired.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Lied et Scherzo, Op. 54 by Florent Schmitt
Invencia Piano Duo
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1898; France
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