Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Florent Schmitt - Symphonie concertante; Rêves; Soirs (Hüseyin Sermet; David Robertson)


Composer: Florent Schmitt
  1. Symphonie concertante, Op. 82: 1. Assez animé
  2. Symphonie concertante, Op. 82: 2. Lent
  3. Symphonie concertante, Op. 82: 3. Animé
  4. Rêves, Op. 65
  5. Soirs, Op. 5: 1. En rêvant
  6. Soirs, Op. 5: 2. Spleen
  7. Soirs, Op. 5: 3. Gaiety
  8. Soirs, Op. 5: 4. Après l'été
  9. Soirs, Op. 5: 5. Parfum exotique
  10. Soirs, Op. 5: 6. Sur l'onde
  11. Soirs, Op. 5: 7. Un soir
  12. Soirs, Op. 5: 8. Epilogue

Hüseyin Sermet, piano (1-3)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo
David Robertson, conductor

Date: 1994
Label: Naïve



The welcome revival of interest in Florent Schmitt's music continues, with the Symphonie concertante and Reves new to the current catalogue. The former was composed for Koussevitzky and his Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was first performed there in November 1932 (the French note is correct, but the English translation has 1934) with the composer playing the important piano part. Complex, grandiose and thickly scored, this is music of strong personality, having few affinities with the central French school of Debussy and Ravel though some links with Koechlin—and, outside France, perhaps Villa-Lobos. Despite the abstract title, it sounds like a programmatic tone-poem telling a pretty violent story and the musical structure is hard to grasp. Do not be put off by the loud and formidably dissonant opening chord, and hang on until the more romantic music (beginning at 2'50'') before too readily agreeing with the composer's compatriots, who thought the work turgid, nicknaming it his ''Symphonie deconcertante''. It is a long piece, not far short of 40 minutes (Schmitt often found it hard to stop) but, once one gets into its spirit, there are few longueurs; arguably some of the best music is in the mysterious central Lent—a 'night music' piece that Bartok would have understood—although the finale has impressive power and momentum.

The Turkish-born pianist Huseyin Sermet gives a strong, sympathetic performance, while the Monte-Carlo PO under David Robertson are also on good form and help him to present this challenging music persuasively; indeed, the disc could win converts to Schmitt's music. The recording, although not ideally refined, copes well enough with his consistently rich textures and big dynamic range.

I have left little space for the other pieces. Reves (1915) is a lyrical tone-poem, while Soirs is Schmitt's orchestration of eight early piano pieces with the same title (1896); usefully, they show us other sides of this interesting composer who was born before Ravel but lived until 1958.

-- Cheadington, Gramophone

More info & 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.


Hüseyin Sermet (born in Istanbul, 1955) is a Turkish pianist and composer. Sermet has a worldwide career that takes him to major concert halls and international festivals. He is particularly well-known in France and the Middle East. He is a Doctor Honoris Causa by the Boğaziçi (1988) and Marmara (1998) universities, and was named a State Artist in 1991. He is Co-President of ADAP (Association of Artists for Peace), based in Paris.


David Robertson (born July 19, 1958 in Malibu, California) is an American conductor. He is currently music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (since 2005) and chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (since 2014). Robertson was music director of the Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain (1992-200) and Orchestre National de Lyon (2000-2004). Robertson has recorded for labels such as Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, Naive, EMI/Virgin, Naxos and Nonesuch.


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