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Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958) Complete Original Works for Piano Duet and Duo - Volume 2
Sur Cinq Notes Op. 34 (for Piano 4-Hands)* (1906) [16:14]
Reflets d’Allemagne op. 28 (for Piano 4-Hands) (1905) [23:40]
8 Courtes Pièces Op. 41 (for Piano 4-Hands)* (1907-08) [19:13]
Invencia Piano Duo (Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn)
rec. Wilson G. Chandler Recital Hall, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA, 18 May 2011 (Op.34); 4 June 2010 (Op.28); 9 July 2011 (Op. 41) DDD
*World Premiere Recording
GRAND PIANO GP622 [59:07]

While Florent Schmitt was a major figure in French musical life prior to World War II, his music receded into semi-obscurity after his death in 1958. Interest only revived in the 1990s, thanks to the development of the CD. He subscribed to no particular school and his music evinces a variety of styles and influences (see an excellent article by my colleague Leslie De'Ath). Much of it is for the piano, either solo, four-hands or for two pianos, and much of the piano music was later orchestrated.
 
Prior to World War I Schmitt wrote three suites for piano four-hands, each based on a five-note motif that is never altered throughout the suite. Two of these are recorded on this disc, both world-premiere recordings. It is a tribute to Schmitt’s skill that he is able produce music of such variety while keeping to his self-imposed strictures. Sur Cinq Notes ranges through numerous styles, with homages to Fauré (Mélodie), Chopin (Barcarolle) and Schmitt’s friend Ravel (Pastorale) as well as a distinctly French mazurka. The concluding Farandole reaches a dervish-like intensity that is reminiscent of Schmitt’s better-known “exotic” style (cf. La Tragédie de Salomé or the Janiana symphony).
 
The 8 Courtes Pièces is the second of the two “five-note” suites on this disc. It has a more pedagogic intent than Op. 34 and features examples of various musical styles common in France in the first decade of the twentieth century. Neo-classicism is represented by two pieces, Menuet and Virelai, while the Sérénade prefigures Les Six. There is a distinctly un-Ravelian Boléro and the Complainte and Cortège combine older forms with new harmonies. Both of the “five-note” suites show great charm in addition to technical prowess.
 
Reflets d’Allemagne is on a larger scale than the other two suites, portraying eight different cities in Germany and Austria. Especially noteworthy are the pieces describing Lübeck and Dresden. While structurally the most impressive of the three, it lacks some of the verve and charm of the other suites. Unlike the other two, Reflets d’Allemagne has been recorded twice before, once excellently by Leslie De'Ath and Anya Alexeyev (see review).
 
Kasparov and Lutsyshyn play with great clarity and precision, carefully bringing out the intrinsic two-piano nature of the music’s construction. They benefit from bright, sharp recording at Old Dominion University’s recital hall. This is the second volume in their four-volume traversal of Schmitt’s duet and duo piano music (see review of first volume). The entire set will greatly expand our knowledge of this distinctive composer.

William Kreindler