Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Band Works by Florent Schmitt

This is the second of two posts of band music in memory of my friend Bill Haynes. Bill was a brass player and band conductor, and knew more wind band literature as anyone I knew.

Florent Schmitt (1878-1958) was a widely admired and much-performed French composer, but his reputation has diminished since his death, and his music is not frequently performed now. Of Schmitt's pieces which are still performed, one of the most well-known is his Opus 62, Dionysiaques for concert band. Dionysiaques is a challenging composition which has earned a place in the wind band repertoire.

But here I present a 12" French Gramophone record from 1929, with two lesser-known band works by Schmitt, "Selamlik," Op. 48, and "Le Camp de Pompé," from his  Antoine et Cléopâtre Suite No. 1, Op. 69a. "Selamlik," subtitled "Divertissement," is a Turkish-inspired piece from 1906; the title refers to the part of the Ottoman palace reserved for men only.

Schmitt's Antoine et Cléopâtre music was written for André Gide's 1920 production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The composer assembled two suites from the incidental music; "Le Camp de Pompée" is the second movement of the first suite. It was originally written for orchestra, and I have been unable to determine whether Schmitt himself transcribed the work for band.

The ensemble credit is given on the label as simply "Musique d'Harmonie," or "Wind Band." The conductor is Guillaume Balay, the former director of the famous Garde Républicaine band. Balay was the conductor at the 1909 premiere of "Selamlik." Both sides were recorded in Paris on March 29, 1929. Despite one of the sides being pressed slightly off-center, these are very enjoyable performances of interesting, seldom-heard music; I hope you enjoy them.

Le Camp de Pompée

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