ALBUM TITLE: Schmitt
WORKS: Psalm XLVII; La tragédie de Salomé; Suite sans esprit de suite
PERFORMER: Christine Buffle, Jennifer Walker (soprano); Chorus of Wales; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67599
Schmitt’s La tragédie de Salomé was his best-known work during his lifetime, and one of the most celebrated ballets in Paris in the period around the First World War. Written within months of Strauss’s opera, Schmitt’s ballet views Salome not as evil temptress, but as manipulated and haunted innocent, hence the ‘tragedy’. Originally for just 20 instruments, Schmitt shortened and revised Salomé, creating a richly orchestrated tour de force, influenced by Stravinsky’s Firebird, but in turn greatly admired by the Russian during the period that Rite of Spring was fermenting. Thierry Fischer is a committed advocate of this often mesmerizing score, and the BBCNOW rises enthusiastically to its challenges, sinister at first, glitzy in the ‘Dance of Pearls’, and packing a punch at the end.
Schmitt’s setting of Psalm 47 opens in crushing fashion, combining attributes of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and The Sorceror’s Apprentice. Christine Buffle is a commanding soloist once things calm down a little, and the orchestra and chorus clearly have a tremendous time, even if the performance and sound occasionally lose a little focus. The rarely heard Suite sans esprit de suite is an engaging bonus in a packed and enticing disc. Christopher Dingle