Florent Schmitt

0 of 5 stars

Psaume XLVII, Op.38
Suite sans esprit de suite, Op.89
La tragédie de Salomé, Op.50

Christine Buffle (soprano)
Jennifer Walker (soprano)

Charles Humphries (organ)

BBC National Chorus of Wales

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Thierry Fischer

Recorded 24 & 25 October 2006 in Brangwyn Hall, Swansea

Reviewed by: Mike Wheeler

Reviewed: May 2007
Duration: 78 minutes

The curiously named Suite sans esprit de suite (Calum MacDonald proposes a translation along the lines of ‘Suite lacking consistency’ or ‘coherence’, suggesting that this reflects the sharp contrasts between the movements) dates from 1937. Providing a lighter interlude between the two big works on the disc, it consists of five dance-related movements, deftly scored and ranging in character from the Spanish exuberance of the opening movement to the poised grace of the fourth, and the popular dance inflections of the fifth. Thierry Fischer and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales keep the music admirably light on its feet.

La tragédie de Salomé was originally composed as a ballet score for a small theatre orchestra in 1907 (two years after Richard Strauss completed his opera on the same subject). In 1909 Schmitt made the more familiar version for large orchestra, as recorded here. Though not as lurid as the kitsch cover-picture suggests (Hyperion’s must be a tongue-in-cheek choice), La tragédie de Salomé is a heady mixture of Debussian orchestral colour and harmony, Stravinskian rhythm (indeed, Schmitt seems to have been at least as much of an influence on Stravinsky as the other way round), Rimsky-Korsakov’s orientalism, and there’s even the odd moment that reminds of Holst.

The orchestral sound in this performance has a seductive tonal allure, and some beautifully phrased woodwind playing, the dance rhythms have a real spring in their heels, and the wordless women’s voices of the chorus and solo soprano Jennifer Walker take their place as an additional tone-colour very effectively. The whole thing is shaped with a keen sense of drama, from the brooding atmosphere of the opening to the abandon of the final ‘Danse de l’effroi’ (Dance of Terror).

Hyperion’s recording has depth and presence, and handles the massive wall of sound in “Psalm 47” comfortably. This is Thierry Fischer’s first recording as Principal Conductor of BBCNOW; it looks set to be an exciting partnership.

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