The new NAXOS release features two iconic ballet suites along with two world premiere recordings.
Back in 2015, a recording of the music of Florent Schmitt on the NAXOS label, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and its music director, JoAnn Falletta, was a noteworthy artistic and commercial success.
Today, these same musical forces are back with a new Schmitt recording — this one headlined by La Tragédie de Salomé, the composer’s best-known orchestral work.
While any new recording of Salomé is a welcome event, that work is actually quite well-represented on disk — this newest one being the piece’s 18th commercial recording to date.
What makes the new release even more special is the inclusion of the suite from the ballet Oriane et le Prince d’Amour, which stemmed from a 1933 commission from the famed dancer and dramatic actress Ida Rubinstein. This is only the second commercial recording ever made of this stunning piece of music.
Moreover, the new NAXOS release includes two recording premieres. One is the ravishing orchestral song Musique sur l’eau, dating from 1898 and set to the words of the symbolist poet Albert Samain. Schmitt’s original version of the piece was for voice and piano, and the composer orchestrated the music in 1913. Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts is the featured soloist (who also appears as the vocal soloist in the Salomé score).
The other recording premiere is the dark, moody Légende. Composed in 1918 for saxophone and piano, several years later Schmitt created two alternate versions of the piece featuring viola and violin soloists. While the saxophone version of the Légende is well-known, here we have the first-ever recording of the violin/orchestra score, featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic’s concertmaster Nikki Chooi.
JoAnn Falletta is among a group of internationally known conductors — including Sakari Oramo, Fabien Gabel, Stéphane Denève, Lionel Bringuier, Leon Botstein and others — who are actively championing Schmitt’s music. Explaining why she does so, Falletta observes:
“Florent Schmitt is an extremely important part of French compositional development in the 20th century. His strong, original voice illuminates the period between impressionism and modernism in France in a way that no other composer does.”
[You can hear more of JoAnn Falletta’s observations about Florent Schmitt and his music in this recent podcast interview with the conductor that has been uploaded to the Internet.]
The NAXOS recording’s official release date is November 13, 2020. But the recording has already made its way to various broadcasting outlets and is being heard on the air. BBC Radio 3 broadcast Musique sur l’eau in early November, and one person who heard the performance was Scottish composer Alistair Hinton. His reaction:
“I’d not heard this piece in many years and it was great to reacquaint myself with it. I could not help but think that it possesses something of a sense of Arnold Schoenberg’s Op. 8 songs — but with a very French accent (or it might have done so had this work not predated the Schoenberg by some seven years!).”
Gene Schiller, music director at Hawaii Public Radio, broadcast two pieces from the new recording in early November as well — the Légende and La Tragédie de Salomé. His comment:
“Sumptuous performances — as much excitement as I’ve ever heard in the Danse de l’effroi! [the final movement of Salomé].”
And the arts critic Steven Kruger is weighing in with particular praise for the two ballet scores, writing:
“This is a winning release. In the vanishing wake of dodecaphonic music, where process was everything, we seem to be rediscovering beauty and meaning in composers who were, so to speak, left behind.
It has taken a while, but Schmitt’s music has been making its slow and steady way into the repertoire. JoAnn Falletta has been an unfailingly successful advocate on CD. There are quite a few versions of La Tragédie de Salomé available — but none more refined and silky than this one …
A special treat here is Oriane et le Prince d’Amour, a similar ballet score filled with erotic intensity. Its menacing opening for muted brass — and convulsive sensual quality throughout — should assure it a future.”
“The days when Schmitt’s rich Straussian music was known only to a select band of admirers seem more and more distant, and this, his most winning piece, has enjoyed several remarkable readings on disc. This new take by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta turns out to be one of the most impressive and colourful the piece has received …”
The new Schmitt recording headlines NAXOS’s November release list, and the CD/download is readily available from online music retailers throughout the world including ArkivMusic, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Presto Classical and HBDirect, among others.
Simply put, for lovers of French music — or any late-romantic/early modern music for that matter — this is a “can’t-miss” release.