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Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Complete Original Works for Piano Duet and Duo - Vol. 3
Marche du 163e R.I., for piano four hands (two pianos), Op. 48 No. 2 (1916) [7:13]
Feuillets de voyage - Book I, Op. 26 (1903-1913) [12:14]
Feuillets de voyage - Book II, Op. 26 (1903-1913) [15:07]
Musiques foraines, for piano four hands, Op. 22 (1895-1902) [25:17]
The Invencia Piano Duo (Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn)
rec. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, 4 January 2011 (Op. 26), 13 May 2011 (Op. 22), 3 January 2012 (Op. 48/2)
GRAND PIANO GP 623 [59:51]

If, like me, you’re more familiar with orchestral/choral Schmitt - the grand Psaume 47 and La Tragédie de Salomé - now is your chance to hear him on a more intimate scale. Byzantion welcomed this and the first two volumes of Invencia’s projected four-part series (review of Volume 1) (review of Volumes 2 & 3), and his comments certainly whetted my appetite for this repertoire. Ukrainian-born pianists Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn are new to me, but their biography suggest they are a most accomplished pair; as for the music it’s relatively early Schmitt, yet it always emerges fully formed.
 
The Marche du 163e R.I., originally written for military band, is a bright, crystalline creation crisply played and well recorded. From the outset this duo impress with their lucidity, fine rhythmic sense and subtle control of dynamics. For those curious as to the provenance of this music it suggests Debussy and Ravel, although it falls somewhere between the soft outlines of the former and the harder edges of the latter. Those who enjoy Koechlin - Les heures persanes, for instance - will feel at home here; indeed, he and Schmitt occupied similar places on the fringes of French music at the time, and in that respect there’s something refreshingly individual about the styles of both.
 
Albums of one kind or another are a familiar part of the Romantic canon, and Schmitt’s two sets of ‘travel pages’ are perfectly shaped, beguiling miniatures; from the butterfly fibrillations of Sérénade and the air of contentment in Douceur du soir (Balmy evening) to the emphatic little Danse britannique this talented twosome are always alive to Schmitt’s eye-twinkling sensibilities. Book II is no less enchanting; the gently shifting harmonies of the Berceuse are adroitly done, and the Mazurka is despatched with supreme elegance and a wonderful control of touch. Even the Marche burlesque is a model of good taste - it’s a music-hall-meets-salon piece that never strays too far in either direction - as is the giddy little Valse.
 
Indeed there’s a balance, an equanimity, in this music that I find very attractive, and the deliciously refined playing and sonics add immensely to that sense of well-being. As for Musiques foraines it sheds light on the slightly sinister, half-lit world of carnival fun and freakery. That said, Schmitt is sparing with the greasepaint and grotesquerie; Boniment de clowns (Tale of Clowns) has more than a hint of wistful charm and the beautiful belly dancer Fatima’s features are most sympathetically drawn. The music of those wise elephants, the fortune teller and the wooden horses is notable for its economy of means and aptness of character, all which is recreated with disarming ease.
 
Such is the unfailing engagement and artistry of this music and these musicians that I can’t wait to hear the other discs in the series. The succinct liner-notes, use of up-to-date fonts and artwork and fine piano sound complete a terrific package.
 
Enchanting repertoire, sensitively played and recorded; a must for all pianophiles.
 
Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei  

See also review by Byzantion
 
Full track-list 
Marche du 163e R.I., for piano four hands (two pianos), Op. 48 No. 2 (1916) [7:13]
Feuillets de voyage - Book I, Op. 26 (1903-1913) [12:14]
No. 1 Sérénade [3:46]
No. 2 Visite [3:26]
No. 3 Compliments [1:14]
No. 4 Douceur du soir [2:12]
No. 5 Danse britannique [1:36]
Feuillets de voyage - Book II, Op. 26 (1903-1913) [15:07]
No. 1 Berceuse [4:27]
No. 2 Mazurka [1:30]
No. 3 Marche burlesque [2:17]
No. 4 Retour a l'endroit familier [3:08]
No. 5 Valse [3:45]
Musiques foraines, for piano four hands, Op. 22 (1895-1902) [25:17]Invencia Piano
I. Parade [4:38]
II. Boniment de clowns [2:41]
III. La belle Fathma [3:37]
IV. Les elephants savants [4:29]
V. La pythonisse [4:39]
VI. Chevaux de bois [5:13]  

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