Thursday, January 14, 2016

JoAnn Falletta and BPO shine with Florent Schmitt

Up until about 1940, Florent Schmitt was one of most frequently-performed living French composers. Although his music virtually disappeared from the repertoire after the Second World War, recent recordings (like this one) have helped a new generation rediscover this remarkable composer.

The two orchestral suites Florent Schmitt extracted from his 1920 musiques de scène "Antoine et Cléopâtre" are, to my ears, music of their time. But that's not a bad thing. Although these extracts were originally intended for ballet dancers they work very well as stand-alone concert pieces.

Schmitt was a friend of Ravel, and I could hear some echoes of "Daphnis et Chloé" in this impressionistic score. Also present is the overripe exoticism of Richard Strauss' "Salome." Schmitt was a master orchestrator, and his music sets the stage, with tinkling percussion and sinuous double reed solos.

If you enjoy Debussy's "La Mer," or the Ravel and Strauss works I mentioned earlier, you'll probably find much to like in the "Antoine et Cléopâtre" suites.

Also included is Schmitt's "Le Palais hanté," a Étude Symphonique based, according to the title, on Edgar Allen Poe's poem, "The Haunted Palace." Actually, it's based on Stéphane Mallarmé's translation of Poe's poem which is quite a different thing. Mallarmé tended to reinterpret rather than do word-for-word translations. The 1904 work is impressionistic and simply flows from idea to idea, paralleling the lines of the poem.

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra perform well, although I sometimes felt the recorded sound a little too clean. In my opinion, impressionist works sound best when the recording's a little soft around the edges. Overall, though, another wonderful performance by Falletta and the BPO.

Florent Schmitt: Antoine et Cléopâtre, Op. 69a and 69b; Le Palais hanté Op. 49
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Here's a link to an interview with conductor JoAnn Falletta about performing and recording these works: