Thierry Fischer

Florent Schmitt: Psaume XLVII: La tragédie de Salomé; Suite sans esprit de suite

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Florent Schmitt is one of the composers of the mid-twentieth century (with Pfitzner and Malipiero, among others) whose political sympathies with the Axis powers before and during the Second World War have dampened subsequent generations' enthusiasm for his music. Stravinsky considered him to be on a level with Debussy and Ravel when Schmitt was at the height of his creative powers in the early years of the century, it's not hard to hear influences of La tragédie de Salomé (1909) in The Rite of Spring. Like many French composers of his generation, Schmitt was fascinated with the exoticism of the East, and while working on his massive setting of Psaume XLVII, he visited the Ottoman Empire and gained firsthand experience with its folk musics. The setting, for soprano, organ, chorus, and orchestra, has an orgiastic wildness that's more evocative of the dance around the Golden Calf than a properly mannered psalm of praise. It has the rhythmic propulsion of The Firebird, the scented mysticism of Debussy's Le Martyre de St. Sébastien, and the orchestral intensity of Richard Strauss, along with some unhinged-sounding echoes of Franck. It's a monumental and exhilarating piece that deserves its reputation as one of the composer's finest creations. La tragédie de Salomé, a suite taken from a ballet written for Loie Fuller, is considered Schmitt's masterpiece, and it evokes a torrid musical landscape similar to that of the psalm. Thierry Fischer leads the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales in a scorching performance. Hyperion's sound is clean and well balanced, but a little bright.

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