The first-ever video performance of Florent Schmitt’s Psaume XLVII (1904) is now available to view, courtesy of France Télévisions.

Schmitt Psaume XLVII Perbost Gabel ONF May 12 2022

Conductor Fabien Gabel leads the Orchestre National de France with soprano Marie Perbost and the Chœur de Radio-France in Florent Schmitt’s Psaume XLVII. (Maison de la Radio, Paris, May 12, 2022)

Florent Schmitt Psaume XLVII

A sonic “experience”: Psalm 47 by Florent Schmitt.

On the evening of May 12, 2022, an unforgettable performance of Florent Schmitt’s monumental Psaume XLVII, Op. 38 was presented at Maison de la Radio in Paris.  For those of us who were lucky enough to attend the concert, it was a performance that will long stay in our memories — so fine was the committed playing of the musicians.

Among the nearly 200 people on stage for the Psaume were the following performers:

Here’s good news: For those music-lovers who could not attend the concert, the next-best thing is now available. For the first time ever, a live performance of Psalm 47 has been captured not just in audio, but also on film.

France Televisions logoThat video has just been released by France Télévisions for all to enjoy.

Having now viewed the video, I can report that it is magnificent — replete with endlessly interesting camera shots of the musicians delivering a terrifically exciting performance of the Psaume.

Maestro Gabel, who first performed this piece in 2019 in Québec City, has turned in a stunning interpretation that attests to his complete mastery of the score. In his efforts, Gabel is ably supported by the ravishing soprano solo of Marie Perbost, the full-bodied sound of the Radio-France Chorus, and the consummate artistry and near-flawless playing of the orchestral musicians.

Rene Dumesnil

René Dumesnil (1879-1967),  music critic for the Le Monde newspaper from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

Experiencing the ONF performance live in concert, I was reminded of these telling words from Le Monde music critic René Dumesnil written more than a half-century ago:

“Regarding the Psaume, what can we say that hasn’t already been said a hundred times? Each new hearing increases the reasons we have to admire it — and to love it. Years go by without depriving this musical monument of its nobility and power.  On the contrary, it seems to shine with brighter radiance than when it was new.”

Manurl Rosenthal French conductor

Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003)

Closer to our own day, the great chef d’orchestre Manuel Rosenthal would say these words to his students:

“If you conduct just one French choral work in your career, it should be this Psalm.”

With the passage of more than a century’s time since the Psalm’s creation in 1904, it is easier than ever to recognize the piece’s artistic significance — and to understand why Florent Schmitt was declared “The New Berlioz” by the musical press when the work was premiered at the Paris Conservatoire two days after Christmas in 1906.

Of course, critics will say what critics say; in the end, it’s how the music sounds that counts most. On top of that, there’s something extra-special in seeing as well as hearing a performance of Psaume XLVII. Those of us who were privileged to be at the May 12th concert were treated to an unforgettable personal experience. Here’s what one attendee, the pianist Bruno Belthoise, wrote afterwards:

Bruno Belthoise pianist

Bruno Belthoise

“Though some may dispute it, in the firmament of the greatest French composers lies Florent Schmitt: This has been my firm belief for more than 30 years. Between the Requiem of Berlioz and the mystical dimensions of the Turangalîla-Symphonie of Messiaen, Schmitt’s Psaume XLVII unfolds an extraordinarily expressive palette — grandiose, striking, moving, and deeply human. This music reaches to the deepest recesses of the soul; it is at once violent, tender, jubilant, sublime …

For those who have never heard the piece, it will come as a shock — its science of orchestration and development reaching new pinnacles. Florent Schmitt was a composer who knew best how to make the orchestra and voices vibrate with such magnitude and such colors. But going beyond its purely orchestral, vocal and formal dimensions, Psaume XLVII is a work through which the intimacy of feeling — and the deep compassion that is expressed — reaches a symbolic force that unites men and women beyond time and space.

Fabien Gabel French conductor

“I must say that the Psaume « killed » me; I needed a week to recover!” — conductor Fabien Gabel

The Orchestre National de France, Chœur de Radio-France and soprano Marie Perbost under the direction of Fabien Gabel have given us a masterful interpretation …”

And now, thanks to the new France Télévisions video, the next best thing to being present in the auditorium is available to everyone. To see and hear the performance for yourself, click here to access the ONF’s Psaume XLVII video — and get ready for the thrill of a lifetime.

[The video can also be viewed on YouTube here, courtesy of soprano Marie Perbost’s music channel.]

May 12 2022 ONF program Fabien Gabel Schmitt Stravinsky Poulenc

The May 12, 2022 Orchestre National de France program, inscribed by conductor Fabien Gabel.

One thought on “The first-ever video performance of Florent Schmitt’s Psaume XLVII (1904) is now available to view, courtesy of France Télévisions.

  1. This is a superb rendition of a true masterwork! Profound feelings in listening to this Psaume XLVII. Bravo!

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