After a warmly-received first volume of Schmitt's
widely appealing music for piano duo and duet, released towards the
end of last year (review
the second and third have quickly followed, with the fourth and final
disc likely to appear later this year.
As before, there are some world premiere recordings here, but it is fair to say there are no indispensable masterpieces. In this corner of Schmitt's corpus there is less evidence of what the notes refer to as "bold conviction, elemental intensity and fearless harmonic vocabulary." On the other hand, there is an abundance of attractive, evocative music - typical of what Schmitt himself termed his "seductive harmony" - thoughtfully and oft-times imaginatively scored for four hands, with the ability to warm even deep-frozen cockles.
In virtuosic terms there are few big challenges to Azerbaijan-born Andrey Kasparov and Ukrainian Oksana Lutsyshyn, both music professors at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, USA, and together known as Invencia. Indeed, some of the music is pedagogic and almost seems within the grasp of a single pair of hands. Yet when it comes to expressiveness and communication, Invencia's elegance and telepathic sense of timing make for a highly satisfying brace of recitals.
Volume 2 contains music of a slightly lesser stature, as it were. The two deliberately self-limiting works based on the first five notes of a scale (opp.34 and 41) are clearly protreptic as such, but no less graceful, and remarkably interesting for all the constraints. The Reflets d'Allemagne sees Schmitt at his most mellifluous, a delightful blend of Schumann and Debussy.
The oddly titled Marche du 163e RI ('The 163rd Infantry Regiment March') injects a somewhat out-of-place military note into the proceedings of volume 3, but that is soon forgotten among the charm and sophisticated nostalgia of the Feuillets de Voyage. Musiques Foraines ('Carnival Music') sees a profounder Schmitt taking advantage of the apparent levity or humour of the treated subjects - including clowns, erudite elephants and wooden horses - to let rip at last with a range of technical and expressive detail. For the pianists, that is - the listener has only to sit back and enjoy the ravishing harmonies, rhythmic diversity and sparkling melody.
Audio is consistently good, with the same venue - Kasparov and Lutsyshyn's home turf - used for all recordings. The English-German-French booklet notes again consist of a general biography by Jerry Rife and specific commentaries on the featured music by Kasparov himself. All three discs so far have come in under an hour, a fact which may engender second thoughts when Grand Piano's top-end retail price is considered. In fairness to the label, the still-to-be-publicised final volume would have to be considerably shorter still for the four CDs to squeeze onto three. Volume 1 or 3 should be the choice of anyone whose budget will only stretch to a single disc.
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk