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!