Christian Ivaldi / Quatuor Stanislas

Florent Schmitt: Piano Quintet; Hasards

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Florent Schmitt: Piano Quintet; Hasards Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Composer Florent Schmitt, whose name was once uttered with the same reverence as Ravel, Debussy, Franck, and Fauré, has been largely forgotten and neglected in modern concert halls. His works combine the rich textures and Romantic sweep of the German tradition with flowing melodies, sparkling harmonies, and intricate textures of the French. In addition to the high technical demands Schmitt places on performers, he also asks a lot of listeners; many of his works are of exceptional length, including the nearly hour-long piano quintet heard on this Timpani album. Given an exemplary performance, the quintet can be a truly satisfying composition. Schmitt had a penchant for writing memorable melodies and developing them in intriguing ways. Unfortunately, pianist Christian Ivaldi and the Quatuor Stanislas do not offer one of these performances. While their interpretation of the quintet may be adequate, their execution is far from it. Intolerable intonation plagues their performance from start to finish, as does a shrill, nasal sound quality and lack of balance throughout. Hasards, a four-movement work for piano quartet also heard on this disc, does not fare any better. Schmitt's music is worth hearing, particularly for listeners who can take the time and really enjoy all he has to say. But superior performances are essential if Schmitt's name is to make a comeback.

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