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Florent Schmitt remains one of the most important and influential French composers of the twentieth century. Although he wrote successfully in almost all forms except opera, he was by training a formidable pianist and his writing for the instrument is colourful, bold and harmonically dextrous. Schmitt was also an inveterate traveller and this permeates his poetic and Romantic Feuillets de voyage (Travel Pages), Op 26 whilst Musiques foraines (Carnival Music) Op 22 reveals Schmitt the festive humorist.
Regular readers will know that I am addicted to the music Florent Schmitt, this third volume of his works for piano duet and duo only adding to my admiration. Born and educated in France, he was far more cosmopolitan in his outlook than his compatriots - Debussy and Ravel - this broader attitude coming from his musical friendship with such composers as Delius. He travelled extensively and collected many influences and exotic styles. This you will hear in the Feuillets de voyage (Travel pages), an extended score in two books, with each containing five descriptive pieces, including a superb Marche burlesque. Almost as extended is the Musiques foraines (Carnival Music) a score often cast in the form used by other French composers of his era, and with such humorous titles as Les elephants savants (The Learned Elephants). Above all he stands very much in a league of his own in the use of four hands at one or two pianos. It would be too simplistic to say he thinks in a symphonic style, for it is written purely in pianistic terms, yet that description will give the uninitiated the general feel of the music. The disc opens with a work intended for military band - the March of the 163rd Infantry Regiment. Composed while serving on the front line in the First World War, it is redolent with the harmonies we hear in his orchestral works. I, for one, am deeply grateful to the American-based Invencia Piano Duo (Andrey Kasparov, Oksana Lutsyshyn), their playing always ideally delineated and attuned to a French idiom, with the technically demanding passages - and there are plenty of them - stunningly played. An in house project - the duo also acting as record producers, editors and booklet note writers - with a realistic sound quality being the result. Very strongly recommended. --David's Review Corner, David Denton