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Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Complete works for wind orchestra
Dionysiaques op. 62 (1913-1925) [11:03]
Lied et Scherzo for double wind quintet and principal French horn op. 54 (1910) [10:03]
Sélamlik - divertissement Op. 48, No. 1 (1906) [4:35]
Fanfare du Camp de Pompée (extract from Suite No. 1 Antoine et Cléopâtre) Op. 69a (1920) [3:56]
Marche du 163ème Régiment d'Infanterie Op.48b (1916) [7:52]
Hymne Funèbre for tenor, choir and orchestra (1899, 1933) [10:03]
Mickaël Chapeau (tenor); Jean-Pierre Berry (horn - Lied et Scherzo); l'Ensemble Vocal Universitaire de Tours/Hervé Magnan
L’Orchestre d’Harmonie de la Région-Centre (OHRC)/Philippe Ferro
rec. Harmonie Région Centre, Orléans, 2008.
CORELIA CR138 [47:29]

A visit to the Florent Schmitt website alerted me to this item. It complements Schmitt's representation on Timpani. While the playing time tells against the disc it is a compelling attraction to have Schmitt's complete works for wind orchestra all in one place. The often-subtle music is performed with élan and authority and has been accorded a transparent yet punchy recording. The CD came into being to mark the half-centenary of Schmitt's death.

Dionysiaques is not new to the catalogue. It has been around for quite some time, including on Caprice 21384, Chandos CHAN9897 and Forgotten Records FR1136. The latter - a mono transfer - also includes the Fanfare du Camp de Pompée.

Philippe Ferro has written that he "wanted to go back to the original orchestration Schmitt had penned for Dionysiaques, including all of the instruments of the saxhorn family as well as other instruments (ad libitum). Having researched and then led this music in its original orchestration, I cannot imagine conducting this music in any other way now. To me, it is like a painting in which we can enjoy the full range of colours, as compared to the “pale copies” which is how I characterize more recent instrumental arrangements."

Dionysiaques is the longest piece here and starts in coiled tension which unleashes slowly and then begins to spit energy at 2:30. Its upstart power is voiced with fidelity and with smiling oompah eructation - Dionysus would have smiled - as well as raucous confidence. There are some nicely rumbling saxophones to add savour to the recipe. Recorded without a wince and with forward-crashing candour this is a virtuoso showpiece.

Lied et Scherzo, a work dedicated to Dukas, is, as expected, accorded a chamber balance. This is sympathetic to the work's instrumental proportions. Solo lines emerge with clarity, including those of the horn solo which are taken by Jean-Pierre Berry, principal horn with l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. The Lied's cantilena beguiles while the happily hiccoughing Scherzo recalls Dionysiaques. The lyrical aspects return to conclude the piece in the sun-warmed Ravel-like relaxation of the Scherzo.

This piece is also available in a version for a smaller number of wind instrumentalists on Praga and in a further reduction for horn and piano on a Warner Ultima duo. The present Corelia disc lets us hear this bipartite work in its full wind ensemble pomp.

Sélamlik sits amid the Schmitt's stream of Eastern exotica also populated by Antoine et Cléopâtre, Sémiramis, La tragédie de Salomé, Oriane et le Prince d'Amour and Salammbo. It was inspired by a visit Schmitt made to Constantinople with his architect friend, Tony Garnier. This music has a humorous accent and a wobbling and whooping Charlot gait to disrupt the crashing janissary percussion.

The little Fanfare du Camp de Pompée is to Schmitt's two Antoine and Cléopâtre suites what Dukas's prefatory Fanfare is to his La Péri - Poème Dansé. Gorgeously recorded, the listener gets a nice sense of left-right directionality. It's by no means undiluted fanfare territory and closes in a quietly atmospheric murmur.

The 163rd Infantry Regiment March is performed in an edition prepared by Désiré Dondeyne (1921-2015) from Schmitt’s piano reduction. Sadly, the composer’s original orchestration had been lost. It's by no means a simple piece of soldiery. Schmitt poured a deal of his creativity into this basic commissioned task. Fanfaring confidence meets trilling truculence, a sturdy lyricism and a gloriously swinging stepping out. The last facet, with retrospective wisdom, fits ill with the real world slaughter of the year in which it was written.

The Hymne funèbre for wind ensemble, tenor and mixed chorus, setting words ("La Coupe et les Lèvres") of Alfred de Musset, is a tribute to dead soldiers fallen in battle. The voices and ensemble are equably balanced with the massed vocal element being pure and lambent. The tenor's part is more operatic and aspiring. The whole conveys a sense of imposing occasion and, ultimately, serene majesty. From the words of the same poet also stemmed Lili Boulanger's Pour les funérailles d'un soldat.

This is the Schmitt Hymne's first-ever recording. The piece was revised in 1933 and the revision was premiered by La Musique de la Garde Républicaine in 1933 at the funeral of French Prime Minister, Paul Painlevé. Ferro was introduced to the Hymne by musicologist Frédéric Robert and by Dondeyne, who knew the composer personally in the 1950s and who was one of Ferro’s teachers.

Ferro has been music director of the Region-Centre Wind Ensemble since 1992 but also directed the Musique des Gardiens de la Paix in Paris from 2000 to 2008. He has had a longstanding affinity for the music of Florent Schmitt and performed as a flautist in the Quartet for Flutes and in the flute part of the Antoine et Cléopâtre music in a concert with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam.

The booklet that comes with the disc is in French and English. It profiles the artists, the composer and each of the six works. The notes on the music are full and punctilious. Although the English creaks the meaning is clear. The sung words for the Hymne are not printed.

A small and valued treasury of otherwise little-known works for wind orchestra. The Schmitt landscape takes on a yet more lavish aspect.

Rob Barnett



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