The NAXOS family of labels (NAXOS, Marco Polo, Grand Piano, etc.) has been one of the most active in bringing the music of Florent Schmitt to the microphones. In fact, its catalogue of Schmitt compositions includes numerous world premiere commercial recordings.
And this month, NAXOS is doing it again with the release of a new recording devoted to works by Schmitt for violin and piano. The featured artists are violinist Beata Halska and pianist Claudio Chaiquin, making their first album for NAXOS.
Together, Halska and Chaiquin have selected a highly interesting program that begins with two world premieres from the composer’s early period:
- Chant du soir, Opus 7 (1895)
- Scherzo vif, Opus 59 (1910)
These early works find Schmitt at his most lyrical. The music sounds Schumanesque in places, and the influence of Schmitt’s teacher and mentor Gabriel Fauré is also evident. Interestingly, Chant du soir received its premiere performance in 1900 at the hands of a very young George Enescu, who at 19 years of age was already wowing Paris with his violin virtuosity. The piece also exists in an arrangement for English horn.
The Scherzo vif was also published in a version for violin and orchestra, in which form it was first played in concert.
Another early work, the Quatre pièces, Opus 25, dates from 1901. Contrary to the information in the CD booklet, the NAXOS release is actually the second recording of this interesting and utterly charming music, following its 2013 premiere on the Arion label featuring violinist Amanda Favier and pianist Célimène Daudet.
An additional work on the new NAXOS release is being recorded for the first time in its violin-and-piano incarnation. It’s Habeyssée, Opus 110, a suite in three movements that was composed in 1947 when Schmitt was in his late 70s — making it a late-career composition.
Interestingly, NAXOS is also the label that recorded Schmitt’s own version of this piece for violin and orchestra, featuring violinist Hannele Segerstam, which was released in 1994 on NAXOS’ sister label Marco Polo.
The longest and most substantial work on the program is the mid-career Sonate libre en deux parties enchainées, Opus 68. Completed in 1919, it is one of the towering violin sonatas of the 20th century. For this reason alone, it has had more exposure in recordings.
In fact, Halska/Chaiquin represents the fourth commercial release of this stunning work; earlier recordings include Fournier/Doyen, Paik/Sermet and Then-Bergh/Schäfer.
[There is also a very fine live performance with American violinist John McLaughlin Williams and pianist David Riley that happens to be my personal favorite.]
The new NAXOS recording will be released on May 12. However, you may now pre-order the album from numerous sources including Amazon. In addition, generous audio clips are already uploaded on Amazon’s UK site which you can access here.
Based on how impressive the track samples sound, I predict we’ll have a winner of a recording on our hands in just a few short days.
For those who enjoy violin-and-piano music — as well as those who like late 19th and early 20th century music more generally — this album is self-recommending. Enjoy!