Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958) Dionysiaques, Op. 62 (1913-14) [9:37] Antoine et Cléopâtre: Le Camp de Pompée, Op.69 (1919) [3:38] Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphony in B flat for Band (1951) [16:42] Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Suite française, Op. 248 (1944) [14:05] Gloria Victoribus (1945) [1:48] In Memoriam (1945) [3:13] West Point Suite (1951) [7:59]
Musique des Equipages de la Flotte de Toulon/Jean Maillot
rec. 1954-56 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1136 [57:08]
Ducretet-Thomson is a label that always arouses curiosity, given that it housed a healthy number of excellent French musicians often playing interesting, evocative and sometimes downright obscure material. Forgotten Records has mined several of D-T’s LPs to produce good-looking programmes and this latest example, which takes two mono LPs made in the mid-1950s, is a case in point. It’s devoted to music for wind band.
The first LP conjoined Florent Schmitt and Hindemith, something of a novelty, then as now. Les Dionysiaques is a forward-looking piece that bears a Stravinskian influence in its orgiastic and infernal qualities. Schmitt’s orchestration is invariably ingenious, as he manages to slip in a sarrusophone as well as some pungently supportive double basses. The music’s vivacity and rhythmic energy is certainly conveyed in this fast performance from Jean Maillot’s Toulon forces, generously launching the work on its premiere recording with a few rough edges along the way. The segment from Antoine et Cléopâtre is suitably brassy and militant. The flat recording perspective isn’t capable of doing true sonic justice to Schmitt’s orchestration but it’s commendably vivid nonetheless.
Hindemith’s Symphony was recorded, I suspect, just a matter of weeks before the composer himself recorded it across the Channel in London with forces culled from the Philharmonia Orchestra - with which orchestra he made a distinguished number of recordings at the time (review). Maillot draws out the opening movement’s two themes with vigour and intensity and his instrumentalists’ characteristically Gallic tonal qualities – some low, slow vibratos included – add to the aural spice. The performance is certainly well up to tempo.
Milhaud’s fresh-faced Suite française heads a quartet of pieces from him. What these performances lack in sheer athleticism of performance they make up for in personalisation, notably the sun-drenched frolic of Provence. Gloria Victoribus is brisk, cheerful and not especially distinctive – composed in 1945 its optimism carries it along - whereas the same year’s In Memoriam is the reverse of the coin, encoding a taut funeral procession. West Point Suite ends the disc with none-too-serious brio.
This is an enjoyable restoration, without notes, as is customary from this source, but well transferred. The flat acoustic is certainly no fault of the restorer.