One of more successful Schmitt music albums to be released recently features Yan-Pascal Tortelier conducting the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Psalm XLVII, Op. 38, with Susan Bullock singing the important soprano part.
It’s coupled with the composer’s most famous work, La Tragédie de Salomé, Op. 50, along with a comparative rarity, Le Palais hanté, Op. 49, inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher.
The recording was released in 2011 on the Chandos label. In my personal view, Tortelier’s Psalm is the best commercial recording of this piece made since Jean Martinon’s famous 1973 version on EMI/Angel with the French National Radio-Television Orchestra & Chorus, along with soprano Andréa Guiot and the great Gaston Litaize on the organ.
I caught up with Maestro Tortelier in October 2011, following a concert of Sibelius, Mozart and Elgar he gave with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and asked him about making his recording of the Schmitt works. (N.B. I am paraphrasing his comments because I was not able to take down his words verbatim during our conversation.)
PLN: What inspired you to record these pieces?
YPT: I have known Schmitt’s music from my days as a violinist in the conservatory. When I was in my teens, we played the Psaume and the Salomé. I found them to be magnificent and exciting works at the time. In the years since, I thought often about recording them.
PLN: How receptive was Chandos to collaborating with you on this project?
YPT: Chandos has been very good in allowing me to record music by other French musicians of the period – composers like Debussy, Ravel, Dukas and Lili Boulanger. So it was a natural step to record the Schmitt pieces, which were new to their catalogue.
PLN: I think your performances of the Salomé and Psalm are the most successful recordings since the Jean Martinon album released more than 35 years ago …
YPT: This is a very fine compliment! Those recordings have been a kind of touchstone for this music. Having the opportunity to record them now gives me a great sense of satisfaction. This is important music that needs to be heard. I’m glad to be able to do my part to bring it to a wider audience.
More information about the Tortelier/Chandos recording can be found on Amazon. This one is definitely well-worth exploring!
Interesting post. I like Schmitt’s music. Do you have recordings of Nadia Boulanger? Thanks.
Not Nadia, but I do have recordings of music by her sister, Lili. The one done by Igor Markevitch and the Lamoureux orchestra and chorus, recorded spectacularly by Everest in about 1960, was the pathbreaking recording and put Lili on the musical map, so to speak. The recording sessions were supervised by Nadia, who was most famous as a teacher in Paris. The Markevitch recording has been released on CD several times, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble tracking down a copy if you’re interested. (Tortelier is also mighty fine in this repertoire.)
Oops, I meant Lili, not Nadia. Yes, I have the Everest LP; Markevitch was/is one my favorites, and one of the greatest of modern day conductors in many ways. Even after many years and an untold number of complete Tchaikovsky symphony cycles, the Markevitch/Phillips recordings of the Russian composer are the the most concise (yet expressive) of all.
It’s very fine to see Y-P Tortelier’s comments in your interview with him! His father, Paul Tortelier, was a great cellist. Only the Galician — the short-lived Feuermann — was better than Tortelier or any of the other great cellists of the period. Thanks.
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