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Florent Schmitt (1870-1958): Antoine et Cleopatre - six episodes for orchestra in two suites; Le Palais hanté, Op. 49 / Buffalo PO, JoAnn Falletta

Album Summary

>Schmitt, Florent : Anthony and Cleopatra, incidental music, Op. 69
>Schmitt, Florent : Le Palais Hanté, Op. 49
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Florent Schmitt life spanned both the late Romantic and 20th century eras and he counted Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel among his close friends. For most of his career he worked as a music critic and early on perceptively predicted the influence jazz would have on the future of serious music. His compositional output was comprised of a mish-mash potpourri of styles which included scores for theatre, including ballet and stage plays, including this collection of incidental music for Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

Gramophone Magazine, November 2015
Conducted by JoAnn Falletta, the performances are admirably stylish, while the Buffalo Philharmonic boast nicely dexterous strings and woodwind.

Classical Music, December 2015
Exquisitely fashioned and appealingly varied in mood, from intimate to orgiastic. Coupled with a fine version of the doom-laden, Poe-inspired Haunted Palace (easily the most persuasive yet recorded), this makes a fine introduction to a neglected composer.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (03/05/2015-03/09/2015).


Fascinating tonal works from Florent Schmitt
This CD on the Naxos label features conductor JoAnn Faletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performing two works by Florent Schmitt (1870-1958). As indicated in the informative liner notes, Mr. Schmitt studied composition under Massenet and Faure at the Paris Conservatoire, and Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel were close friends. It is therefore no surprise that his music for “Antony and Cleopatra” is evocative of images in the same way that a well-written film score attempts to accomplish. In fact, my first thought upon hearing the two suites was that this was indeed the work of a composer who would have done well writing musical scores.

The first suite sonically describes the obvious attraction and love between Antony and Cleopatra, which is followed by “Le Camp de Pompee” and then “Bataille d’Actium”, a depiction in jagged tones of the Roman defeat of Egypt on land and at sea. This suite sets the stage very well for Suite No. 2, and “Nuit au Palais de la Reine” contains a glorious performance of an English horn describing a sensual night in Cleopatra’s palace. “Orgie et Danses” is next, and the movement has definite Stravinsky-like sonorities up to the point where Cleopatra’s death is depicted with some rather snake-like sinuous tones by the woodwinds. The final movement of the work is “Le Tombeau de Cleopatre”, a rather somber and evocative soundscape to describe Cleopatra’s tomb and the emotional results of her romance with Antony.

The other work on the recording is based upon Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Haunted Palace”, a very short 48 line work, a portion of which is reproduced in the liner notes. The text was translated into French by the poet Stephane Mallarme, and it appears to be from this that Schmitt worked to create this particularly tone based work. It is pleasing that this is not melancholy in the slightest, but rather more upliftingly energetic in a “life cannot be contained” sort of way. This is definitely not a gloom-and-doom piece, and is very exciting.
I must confess that I am very much a JoAnn Faletta fan, and having had the privilege of seeing her work in person in a guest conductor capacity, I have seen first-hand the “something extra” that she brings to every performance. And on this recording, I most certainly hear that which I have experienced live. I was previously not familiar with Schmitt’s music, but that is a shortcoming that I shall rectify shortly. This is wonderful music, and if Stravinsky and especially the more directed music of Ravel is right up your alley, then you will likely enjoy this recording. Strongly recommended.

Submitted on 01/03/16 by KlingonOpera 
"The Love of Love"-Shakespeare
Yet another superb disc from Joan Falletta and the Buffalo P.O. This time they turn their attention to Florent Schmitt (1870-1958). Schmitt belongs to that talented generation of French composers who emerged near the conclusion of the 19th century. His work is not easy to categorize. There are strains of Wagner and Richard Strauss as well as Ravel and Debussy readily discernible. He composed a fair amount including incidental music, the subject of this program. A 1920 staging of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra incorporating balletic elements between acts was the catalyst for Schmitt’s involvement. The composer subsequently assembled 2 concert suites to be performed independently of the play. Each suite consists of 3 sections, a total of 46 minutes. What Schmitt may have lacked in terms of an ability to devise distinctive thematic material is more than offset by his imaginative handling of rhythm, harmony and color. He’s the master mood painter, the conjurer of vivid imagery and rarefied atmosphere. The 6 movements range from the exotic and martial to the orgiastic and, ultimately the tragic. Le Palais hante a 6 stanza poem by Poe as translated by Mallarme, metaphorically describes a state of spiritual collapse, symbolized by a luxurious palace once joyous and inviting now depleted and forbidding. Schmitt’s score eloquently mirrors this dissolution. In both of these works, conductor and orchestra shine with stylish, incisive readings which clarify and invigorate the various elements comprising Schmitt’s writing. High drama is nicely balanced with restraint. Not surprisingly, Producer/Engineer, Tim Handley provides the frosting on the cake with a beautifully detailed pickup, palpable depth and realistic dynamics.
Submitted on 01/29/16 by Allen Cohen 
JoAnn Falletta and BPO shine
Up until about 1940, Florent Schmitt was one of most frequently-performed living French composers. Although his music virtually disappeared from the repertoire after the Second World War, recent recordings (like this one) have helped a new generation rediscover this remarkable composer.

The two orchestral suites Florent Schmitt extracted from his 1920 musiques de scène "Antoine et Cléopâtre" are, to my ears, music of their time. But that's not a bad thing. Although these extracts were originally intended for ballet dancers they work very well as stand-alone concert pieces.

Schmitt was a friend of Ravel, and I could hear some echoes of "Daphnis et Chloé" in this impressionistic score. Also present is the overripe exoticism of Richard Strauss' "Salome." Schmitt was a master orchestrator, and his music sets the stage, with tinkling percussion and sinuous double reed solos.

If you enjoy Debussy's "La Mer," or the Ravel and Strauss works I mentioned earlier, you'll probably find much to like in the "Antoine et Cléopâtre" suites.

Also included is Schmitt's "Le Palais hanté," a Étude Symphonique based, according to the title, on Edgar Allen Poe's poem, "The Haunted Palace." Actually, it's based on Stéphane Mallarmé's translation of Poe's poem which is quite a different thing. Mallarmé tended to reinterpret rather than do word-for-word translations. The 1904 work is impressionistic and simply flows from idea to idea, paralleling the lines of the poem.

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra perform well, although I sometimes felt the recorded sound a little too clean. In my opinion, impressionist works sound best when the recording's a little soft around the edges. Overall, though, another wonderful performance by Falletta and the BPO.

Submitted on 08/11/16 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Schmitt, Florent : Anthony and Cleopatra, incidental music, Op. 69
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (03/05/2015-03/09/2015)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1920

>Schmitt, Florent : Le Palais Hanté, Op. 49
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (03/05/2015-03/09/2015)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 31 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1900-1904