Schmitt: Lied et Scherzo; Suite en rocaille; À tour d’anches; Chants alizés

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WORKS: Lied et Scherzo; Suite en rocaille; À tour d’anches; Chants alizés
PERFORMER: Prague Wind Quintet, Czech Nonet, etc
Florent Schmitt isn’t one of those composers whose stylistic voice you can recognise in an instant – unlike his older, and unquestionably greater compatriots Fauré and Debussy. In fact, those two formidable figures left a strong imprint on Schmitt, as did Franck and Wagner. But the music isn’t derivative – there’s a distinctive flavour. A love of opulence and arabesque, unforced rhythmic freedom and sharp ear for texture are as strongly evident in these pieces as they are in the grander and better-known Tragédie de Salomé and Psalm 47. At the same time there’s a light touch – even the occasional glint of a wicked sense of humour. And in his use of the various ensembles employed here – solo horn and wind nonet; flute, string trio and harp; piano and wind trio; wind quintet – Schmitt shows an imagination and aural precision even Ravel might have admired. The spirit of the divertissement prevails, but there are hints of deeper things too, especially in the luscious Lied et Scherzo. The members of the Prague Wind Quintet and Czech Nonet not only play brilliantly, they sound as though they enjoyed every moment, and the recordings are excellent in balance and clarity. Well worth exploring. Stephen Johnson