Solisten-Ensemble Berlin

Florent Schmitt: Piano Quintet, Op. 51; À tour d'anches, Op. 97

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A student of Fauré and Massenet, and contemporary and colleague of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky, composer Florent Schmitt's exceptional notoriety diminished rapidly after his death in 1958. Now, his name is little mentioned and his music infrequently heard. He composed actively for much of his 88-year lifespan, contributing literature to many different genres. This Naxos album focuses on two of his more noteworthy chamber music compositions, the Op. 51 Piano Quintet of 1908 and Á tour d'anches, Op. 97, of 1943. The piano quintet, clocking in at nearly an hour, is one of the lengthiest and most challenging in the repertoire. There are moments when Schmitt's writing could easily be confused as Ravel's, while at other times he treads his own path, encouraging virtuosic displays. Á tour d'anches, written for piano, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon is a much more modern-sounding composition in which Schmitt's French roots are still quite noticeable. Giving its best attempts at reviving Schmitt's works is the Soliste-Ensemble Berlin. The Piano Quintet is performed with laudable endurance, variety of colors and textures, and clear and exciting commitment to the score. What's lacking from the string players, however, is consistently reliable intonation. Even with the frequent pitch problems, listeners will still enjoy the exposure to this titanic chamber work and wonder why Schmitt's works are not performed for often. Á tour d'anches is treated to the same level of integrity and commitment, but without the intonation issues of the quintet, making it the stronger performance on the disc.

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