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Schmitt: Piano Quintet Op. 51, Hasards Op. 96 / Ivaldi, Stanislas String Quartet

Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Timpani   Catalog #: 1152   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Florent Schmitt
Performer:  Christian Ivaldi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stanislas String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHMITT Piano Quintet. Hasards Christian Ivaldi (pn); Stanislaus Qrt TIMPANI 1152 (70:40)

Unless I’ve missed something, this is the first CD airing of Schmitt’s Quintet since the Bern Quartet, with Werner Bärtschi, recorded it in 1981 (Accord 149 528), though, less because of the composer’s authoritative participation than for the Calvet Quartet’s exquisitely expressive playing (all those discreetly crooning portamentos!) spiriting up genuine enchantment, anyone interested Read more in the Quintet will find the 1935 recording of the slow movement, with Schmitt at the piano (in the Composers in Person series, EMI 54840), revelatory and sine qua non . With first and last movements playing 20 minutes each, sandwiching the 14 minute slow movement, coupled with very full writing (a piano part spreading over four staves, relentless double-stopping lending the quartet the heft of a string orchestra), the labor-intensive nature of performance preparation militates against frequent presentation. More daunting, Schmitt is not a great melodist, and his barrage of musical small change—however cleverly, luridly, writhingly manipulated—does not suffice to keep one’s attention on the stretch. For performers, this presents the logistical problem, unpersuasively met by present forces, of shaping these involved pieces with evident trajectory—one pretentiously hackneyed travail after another simply deepens the emptiness of so much fulsome brummagem. The important piano part, through which Ivaldi cluelessly pounds, is too often covered by the strings. And Timpani’s boxy sound—sounding more like a close studio job than the credited Nancy Conservatory auditorium—bestows the ennui-laden kiss of death, over which the fevered liner-copy expostulations of the aptly name Michel Fleury bestow a funeral wreath. Of course, this invidious comparison is made possible not only by the Schmitt/Calvet performance but by the Accord production, still available from French Amazon, which succeeds, relatively speaking, in realizing Schmitt’s attempt to give us the Franck Quintet on steroids.

Hasards , a four-movement suite, represents Schmitt’s lighter side—a grotesque olla podrida of ostensible charm goosed by raspberries, tender feints guyed by truculence, the fun gestures of Les Six appropriated by a dogged, busy, belated sensibility. Playing under three minutes, the first two pieces are over before their thinness becomes wearing, while the third (playing five and a half minutes), still very small beer, is one of Schmitt’s most coolly engaging evocations, all too soon upended by an obstreperous, mechanically clicking finale of bogus bonhomie . A more suavely ingratiating account from Régis and Bruno Pasquier, Roland Pidoux, and Haridas Greif is still available (Valois 4679).

Curious? Give the Accord a go.

FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Piano and Strings in B minor, Op. 51 by Florent Schmitt
Performer:  Christian Ivaldi (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stanislas String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1908; France 
Hasards, Op. 96 by Florent Schmitt
Performer:  Christian Ivaldi (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stanislas String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1944; France 

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