Available in mid-January 2017, the boxed set includes all 14 compositions first released in 2012-13 … now at a special price of four CDs for the price of two.
Several years ago, the Grand Piano label issued a series of four CDs that together make up the complete original works for piano duet and duo by the French composer Florent Schmitt. Consisting of 14 opus numbers created relatively early in Schmitt’s long composing career (the works were completed between the years of 1899 and 1916), this body of work represents an important contribution to the piano repertoire.
… And yet for many years, most of these pieces lay barely touched, with only a few of them performed and recorded. Among the fortunate pieces that were better-known were two sets championed by the famous French piano duo Robert and Gaby Casadesus — Une semaine du petit-elfe Ferme-l’oeil, Op. 58 and Trois rapsodies, Op. 53. The Casadesus team recorded both works for Columbia Masterworks in 1956 — classic readings which remain available today.
But the oblivion in which many of Schmitt’s other duo-pianist pieces resided changed dramatically when the Invencia Piano Duo, consisting of pianists Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn, took it upon themselves to research and record the complete set of works. Among the 14 works were the following eight that received their world premieres thanks to this recording project:
- Huit courtes pièces, Op. 41 for piano four-hands (1908)
- Lied et scherzo, Op. 54 for two pianos (1910)
- March for the 163rd Infantry Regiment, Op. 48 for two pianos (1916)
- Musiques foraines, Op. 22 for piano four-hands (1902)
- Rhapsodie parisienne for piano four-hands (1900)
- Sept pièces, Op. 15 for piano four-hands (1899)
- Sur cinq notes, Op. 34 for piano four-hands (1906)
- Trois pièces récréatives, Op. 37 for piano four-hands (1907)
[Note: Lied et scherzo had received prior recordings in Schmitt’s own versions for horn and piano as well as double wind quintet, but the Invencia Piano Duo’s recording was the first one of the composer’s version for two pianos.]
Speaking about the artistic importance of this project, the Invencia Piano Duo’s Andrey Kasparov has written:
“These CDs are undoubtedly among the most significant projects of our careers. Schmitt’s music has always enthralled us with its splendid colors, Gallic wit, spontaneity of expression, bold imagination, daring stylistic contrasts, rhythmic vitality and rich texture. We are very hopeful that these marvelous works will find their way into the standard repertoire.”
The four disks were released by Grand Piano in 2012 and 2013. I wrote about the project at the time, including an insightful interview with the two pianists.
The releases also met with widespread international critical acclaim. Here are several examples of the reaction to these recordings:
Michel Fleury, Classica:
“Technical perfection, synchronicity, collaboration as well as a warm and sonorous timbre constitute an interpretation which is as perfect as the music itself.”
William Kreindler, MusicWeb International:
“Kasparov and Lutsyshyn play with great clarity and precision, carefully bringing out the intrinsic two-piano nature of the music’s construction … The entire set will greatly expand our knowledge of this distinctive composer.”
Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition:
“Piano-duo music by Florent Schmitt via the Invencia Duo that demonstrates his rich keyboard palette and often poly-metric syntax allied to a richly “vertical” style — what Schmitt termed his “seductive harmony.” A lovely syncopated tune arises from the offbeat convergence of harmonies from the two keyboards — and enchanting synchronicity of musical energies and fleet invention …”
Burkhard Schäfer, Piano News:
“This remarkable CD clearly demonstrates that [Schmitt] may be put on equal level with the great compatriots in his profession: Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Satie to mention just a few. These compositions — extremely intricate contrapuntally but at the same time highly inspiring and unusually sensuous in their every fiber — have the great fortune to have found congenial masters of interpretation in the Armenian-Ukrainian Invencia Piano Duo. Rigor, levity, esprit and sparkling colorization … are the characteristics with which the duo precisely captures the wit of these works … Rarely has one heard piano music in such spectacularly good sound as in the case of this Schmitt recording. An outstanding production!”
Perhaps sparked in part by the interest generated by the Invencia Piano Duo recordings, extensive space was devoted to Florent Schmitt in a new book title Perspectives on the Performance of French Piano Music, published by Ashgate in 2014. Specifically, the chapter written by pianist and French music specialist Scott McCarrey advances a timely reappraisal of Schmitt’s piano creations and their appealing characteristics.
To give you a flavor of that inventiveness and appeal — as well as the fresh and invigorating approach by the Invencia Piano Duo — you can see and hear pianists Kasparov and Lutsyshyn performing Schmitt’s brilliant Rhapsodie parisienne in recital in 2011, via this YouTube clip.
And now, three years after the release of the fourth and final volume of Schmitt’s complete music for piano duet and duo, Grand Piano has announced that it will be releasing the entire 4-CD series as a boxed set (label catalogue number GP730X). It will be available worldwide beginning in mid-January.
Even better, the boxed set is being offered with special pricing: four CDs for the price of two. Devotees of Florent Schmitt’s music — as well as anyone who loves piano music in general — now have the opportunity to acquire these artistically important recordings at a bargain price.
As it is impossible to know how long the set will be available at such a lucrative price, I recommend that you act quickly to take advantage of this special offer. The set is now available for pre-order at Amazon’s USA site, and soon at other online classical music vendors including Arkiv Music, HBDirect, Presto Classical and Amazon’s UK site.