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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Florent Schmitt - La Tragédie de Salomé; Le palais hanté; Psaume XLVII (Yan Pascal Tortelier)


Composer: Florent Schmitt
  1. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): I. Prélude -
  2. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): I. Danse des perles
  3. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Lent - Les Enchantements sur la mer -
  4. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Danse des éclairs -
  5. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Danse de l'effroi
  6. Le palais hanté, Op. 49 (d'après Edgar Allan Poë)
  7. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Animé -
  8. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Un peu moins vite -
  9. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Calme -
  10. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Même mouvement

Susan Bullock, soprano (7-10)
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra & Choir
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Chandos



PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****

It’s just a year since Sascha Goetzel’s combustible Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic version of the suite from Florent Schmitt’s sensuously exotic ballet La tragédie de Salomé, and here is another to challenge it. There are clear differences between the two recordings: where Goetzel’s account is sharp and angular in attack, Yan Pascal Tortelier is more supple and caressing, emphasising the score’s Gallic progeniture.

Both approaches work, but it’s the Chandos engineering that really makes the difference, with much more transparency in the rich orchestration, and a palpably bigger soundstage, especially on the sumptuous multichannel SACD layer. The glimmering palpitations of Salomé’s ‘Danse des perles’ are more erotically present in the São Paulo orchestra’s version, the climaxes in ‘Les enchantements sur la mer’ more visceral.

Going from the lurid sex and violence of Salomé to Schmitt’s setting of Psalm 47 should be a major wrench stylistically, but isn’t: the orgiastic volleys of brass and percussion in its opening paragraph have a distinctly pagan feel about them, and are a long way from conventional religiosity. Tortelier again excels in the untrammelled sensuality of the middle section, where solo violin and soprano exchange indecently lavish rhapsodies – from sound alone, you would never guess it’s based on a Biblical text.

Thierry Fischer’s rival Hyperion release offers both the Psalm and Salomé, also in highly persuasive performances. But for me the extra sensory charge of Tortelier and the heady swirl of this music-making  has the edge. This is a superb CD, and an ideal introduction to the perilously seductive sound-world of this composer.

-- Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine

More reviews:


Florent Schmitt (28 September 1870 – 17 August 1958) was a French composer. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. At the age of 19 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Gabriel Fauré, Jules Massenet, Théodore Dubois, and Albert Lavignac. Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. His most famous pieces are La tragédie de Salome and Psaume XLVII (Psalm 47). His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.


Yan Pascal Tortelier (born 19 April 1947) is a French conductor and violinist, and is the son of the cellist Paul Tortelier. He was principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra (1989-1992), the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (1992-2003), Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (2009-2011) and currently, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He is a regular recording artist for Chandos Records, and has conducted commercial recordings for Chandos with the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the OSESP.


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