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Hyperion Records

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The Death of John the Baptist (detail) by Jack Hayes
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67599
Recording details: October 2006
Brangwyn Hall, Guildhall, Swansea, Wales
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: June 2007
Total duration: 17 minutes 49 seconds

'Thierry Fischer is a committed advocate of this often mesmerising score, and the BBC NOW rises enthusiastically to its challenges, sinister at first, glitzy in the Dance of Pearls, and packing a punch at the end … Christine Buffle is a commanding soloist … the orchestra and chorus clearly have a tremendous time … the rarely heard Suite sans esprit de suite is an engaging bonus in a packed and enticing disc' (BBC Music Magazine)

'One of his most stirring pieces [Psalm 47]. However, his exotic ballet on the Salome story is his masterpiece, and it is scored with great ingenuity; the lesser known Suite, finally, strings together five varied dances … the performances are excellent and full of telling detail' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This is exhilarating stuff on a big—make that B-I-G—scale … and Hyperion delivers cold, colorful sonics—almost SACD quality—to match' (American Record Guide)

'The three thrilling and beautiful works recorded here make a strong case for his music … Psalm 47 … is a work extravagant enough for Schmitt to have been termed 'the new Berlioz' … music that swaggers with barbaric splendour and radiates luxuriant ecstasy … this is a fantastically uplifting musical spectacular! [Suite sans esprit de suite] the work as a whole exudes brilliance and tenderness, wit and charm, and is orchestrated both skilfully and imaginatively … [La tragédie de Salomé] whether mysterious or furious, Schmitt's command of orchestral magnificence and colour is masterly, as is his ability to characterise through melody and sound. These three works enjoy a resounding and sensitive response from Thierry Fischer and his BBC Welsh forces in music that will surely find popularity through this release … resplendent in performance and recording quality' (International Record Review)

'Thierry Fischer's no-holds-barred approach brings Schmitt's Psalm and Salomé to vivid life … terrific stuff' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hyperion’s panoramic aural perspective, warmly detailed in quieter moments and tumultuously filled at the frequently frenzied, makes a best sonic case for these overloaded blockbusters, the glistening, profound orchestral capture rendering Florent Schmitt’s fin de siecle contrivance of luridly empurpled passages with varieties of violet and mauve, so to speak, as seen through smog in a Los Angeles sunset … enthusiastically recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Fischer's slightly slower tempos and stunning sonics capture the crushing power of both pieces so well that there's no question of any lack of excitement. The magnificent engineering really counts in this brilliant but also very heavily scored music. The BBC National Orchestra plays with plenty of power … if you don't know this music, here's your chance to get acquainted with two very grand 20th century masterpieces' (

'Psalm 47 is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It begins and ends in a huge welter of sound, with vigorous dance rhythms and brilliantly coloured orchestration. The BBC Chorus of Wales gives a confident account of music its members can’t have sung very often, if at all. Anglo-Swiss soprano Christine Buffle sings the seductively tender central solo with great tonal warmth, matched by orchestra leader Lesley Hatfield’s supple playing in the accompanying violin obbligato … the orchestral sound in this performance 'La tragédie de Salomé' has a seductive tonal allure, and some beautifully phrased woodwind playing, the dance rhythms have a real spring in their heels, and the wordless women’s voices of the chorus and solo soprano Jennifer Walker take their place as an additional tone-colour very effectively. The whole thing is shaped with a keen sense of drama … Hyperion’s recording has depth and presence, and handles the massive wall of sound in Psalm 47 comfortably. This is Thierry Fischer’s first recording as Principal Conductor of BBCNOW; it looks set to be an exciting partnership' (

'L'enthousiasme du chef, l'assurance de ses musiciens et la discipline des choeurs (parfaitement intelligibles): Il y avait de quoi nous offrir un Psaume XLVII titanesque et extatique à souhait' (Diapason, France)

Suite sans esprit de suite, Op 89
1937; composer's own orchestration of work originally for solo piano

Majeza  [2'53]
Charmilles  [7'18]
Thrène  [3'27]
Bronx  [2'36]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Suite sans esprit de suite, Op 89, dates from 1937, during the period of Schmitt’s turbulent critical career. He composed it first for piano solo but then immediately produced this version for orchestra. Compared to the Psalm and Salomé it is comparatively restrained, even neoclassical in expression, and quite light-hearted in mood, though every page continues to show the hand of a master-orchestrator. Nor does it show much oriental influence, being rather a score of Mediterranean warmth and clarity. The title is an untranslatable pun, for the French phrase ‘esprit de suite’ means not ‘the spirit of a Suite’ but rather ‘coherence’, ‘consistency’; so something that is ‘sans esprit de suite’ would therefore be inconsistent, indeed a ‘non sequitur’. Schmitt presumably meant to indicate that his work comprised a number of contrasted movements without any larger interrelationship (which might, in fact, accord with the popular idea of what a suite could be). Yet in its own way the piece does establish an inner unity from the fact that all of its five movements are infused with the spirit of the dance, each one alluding to a different kind of dance-measure.

The opening ‘Majeza’ (brilliance or flashiness—a word deriving from the aristocracy of eighteenth-century Madrid) is a lively dance-overture, whose highly rhythmic main idea is briefly contrasted with a more sinuous and sensuous chromatic theme. The exquisite ‘Charmilles’ (bowers) is a tender yet sumptuous barcarolle in which we can hear affectionate echoes of both Fauré and Ravel. The hoydenish ‘Pécorée de Calabre’ (Calabrian peasant girl) is a brief, obstreperous Spanish dance, a kind of jota. The grave and statuesque ‘Thrène’ (Threnody) is cast as a sarabande with a modal cast to its melodies, perhaps referring to ancient Greece and ideals of unattainable classic beauty. As the title of the finale, ‘Bronx’, might lead us to expect, this last movement alludes to jazz music, to cakewalks, ragtimes and shimmys. For all his disapproval of modern trends, Schmitt shared the fascination of many French composers—such as his friend Ravel—with jazz rhythms and character, and he creates a sophisticated melange of dance-steps and big-city sounds to give a raucously good-humoured conclusion to his suite. Though not one of his most important works, Suite sans esprit de suite is a characteristic expression of the gifts of one of the most assured orchestrators and most fertile minds in twentieth-century French music.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2007

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