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Colin Clarke
Fanfare, May 2012

Student of Massenet and Fauré, contemporary of Ravel, it can hardly come as a surprise that Florent Schmitt’s music is heady with Impressionism.  The booklet writer, Gérald Hugon, points out that Ombres (“Shadows”, 1912-17) has distinct parallels with Ravel’s Gaspard, and it is easy to hear how. The first part (“J’entends dans le lontain”) certainly seems of equivalent technical difficulty. The full form of the movement’s title translates as “I hear in the distance drawn-out cries of the most poignant grief”), and reflects the piece as response to the events of World War I. The movement spread out over nearly a quarter of an hour; its varied terrain is sensitively negotiated by the young Larderet. Just as the Mediterranean infuses the Impressionists, so it did “Mauresque”, the work’s slow, reflective central panel. The final part, “Cette ombre, mon image” (That shadow, my likeness”) was inspired by a line by Walt Whitman and with it Schmitt’s writing begins to enjoy a timelessness hitherto absent. Larderet, Paris and Lübeck trained ( in the latter venue with Bruno-Leonardo Gelber), seems perfectly attuned to Schmitt’s fragrant and fascinating, Ravel-yet-not-quite soundworld.

The Mirages, op. 70, only comprises two movements. The capricious element of the first (inspired by Pan) is superbly projected by Larderet; the second, “La Tragique Chevauchée” (The Tragic Gallop, dedicated to Cortot) is marked “Emporté et violent”, and Larderet takes the “violent” element to heart, contrasting it with some delightful staccato passages.. Finally, the composer’s own version of the second, shorter, version of Tragédie de Salomé, a ballet originally for orchestra. Naxos here presents a World Premiere recording. This is a multifaceted work, anticipating Stravinsky’s Rite here while luxuriating in Debussian haze there. Hearing Impresisonist orchestral scores on the piano is no cul-de-sac, as Jean-Efflam Bavouzet conclusively proved on his Chandos disc of works that included the magnificent Jeux… Larderet continues the tradition in fine fashion. His performance is gripping and multi-timbred. Perhaps the ecstasy of the central “Danse des perles” could have risen further. No such gripes to the final movement, however, with its Stravinskian dances expertly, and excitingly, realized.

I am perhaps a little more enthusiastic about Schmitt’s music. This is definitely one of Naxos’ better releases. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



Radu A. Lelutiu
Fanfare, March 2012

Larderet’s skilled and persuasive advocacy for this imperfect composer certainly deserves to be applauded. Schmitt makes punishing demands on the performer, which Larderet meets in spades. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



James L Zychowicz
MusicWeb International, September 2011

Florent Schmitt composed extensively for piano throughout his long career. The three works collected here are often regarded as among his most important contributions for the instrument. They date from the middle of his life: La tragédie de Salomé, Op. 50, 1912–13 (based on the original orchestral score of 1907 and its revision, which was premiered in 1911), Ombres, Op. 64, 1917, and Mirages, Op. 70, 1921.

While some of Schmitt’s earlier compositions have affinities with the styles of some of his contemporaries, these scores reveal Schmitt’s unique voice. He had already proved himself in the orchestral version of La tragédie, a work which conveys the familiar story of Salome, the daughter of Herodias, whose dancing for Herod Antipas earned her an open-ended favour from the king. The result was the infamous demand for the head of the prophet John the Baptist, something her mother requested to silence the preaching against her infidelities. The drama was familiar at the time from the popularity of both Oscar Wilde’s play, which was written in French, and Richard Strauss’s setting of that drama as an opera (1905). Schmitt focused on the aspect of dance rather than retelling the drama. His Tragédie de Salomé was conceived as a series of stylized dances focusing on the well-known “Dance of the Seven Veils” also found in Strauss’s opera.

Effective as an orchestral work, the transcription for piano allowed the composer to focus on the musical content and leave off, for the moment, his distinctive scoring. Even so, the writing for piano is not without interest especially in the use of figures to simulate orchestral effects. Also notable is his implementation of ranges on the keyboard to convey a span of timbres. As a result, this work is idiomatically pianistic without being derivative of the orchestral score. It is convincing in this solo piano version which Vincent Larderet delivers masterfully. He sets up the piece with an evocative reading of the Prélude by making use of the tempo (Lent) to bring out the various details of the score. The remainder of the first part consists of the “Danse des perles” (“Dance of pearls”) which works well in projecting the kind of decadence associated with the story in its various recent expressions. The second part is more complex, with its series of dances interconnected in a single movement building to a conclusion. Here Larderet is also effective in bringing his insights into each of the pieces. He then seamlessly leads the listener from one section to another. At times the music sounds as if its origins were with the piano and that this is not a transcription of a work for another idiom. This is testimony to Larderet’s interpretative craft.

The other two works are similarly impressive. Ombres consists of three movements which are essentially character pieces. Larderet treats each movement individually. Those unfamiliar with Schmitt’s piano music might sample the first, a relatively short piece entitled “Mauresque”, which gives a sense of the composer’s approach to the instrument. He allows the textures to guide his interpretation, as well as the others in the set, something that works quite well in the more sustained conception of the first piece “J’entends dans le lointain”. This more extended piece is complemented by the last “Cette ombre, mon image”, which contains some expressive dissonances here delivered to good effect.

The other piece on this recording, Mirages, consists of two movements, and is similar in style. Dissonant chords and angular lines work well in the pianistic idiom. Mastery of the score emerges as strongly as in the other works on this recording. The music suggests a live performance, an aspect of the recording that is laudable in itself. At the same time, the sense of improvisation that Larderet brings to various passages is effective in conveying his solid reading and persuasive interpretations.



Brent Auerbach
American Record Guide, July 2011

He [Vincent Larderet] has special gifts for evenness and light tremolos. Another strength is his ability to project different sounds: his soft bass passages are rumbling and ominous, and his full-force chordal attacks are overwhelming and brilliant (never even shrill, just powerful). I didn’t sense any particular “live” quality to the playing; it actually sounds more careful and restrained than Larent Wagschal on Saphir. No matter. This remains a very strong Naxos offering, further introduction to the music of a little known 20th Century pioneer.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

Arriving too late to join the French Impressionist composers, to which his gifts would have been eminently suited, Florent Schmitt has never received the approbation he deserves. As a young student I became besotted with his music and bought every disc I could find, but that was precious few, a situation that is equally true today. A prolific composer through much of his life—dying in 1958 at the age of 88—his catalogue of published works included a sizeable quantity for solo piano. In a sense he was an enigma, his style moving around with every new work, the three pictures of Ombres (Shadows) having been likened to Ravel, its colours often glistening as in the Mediterranean sun, and provides a reminder that Schmitt spent some years in Italy as the winner of the coveted Prix de Rome. It is a score of considerable technical demands in its long opening movement, J’entends dans le lointain, and is often expressed in shimmering colours. Mirages, a Debussy inspired score, received a superb recording from John Ogden many years ago, and this one is just as impressive in its handling of the virtuoso second picture. Maybe more ‘original’ piano works would be have been welcome, La Tragedie de Salome so radiant in its orchestral garb, that the composer’s piano transcription—very much in the style of Liszt—is rather second-best. To mention one or two ‘splashy’ chords from the multi-award winning French pianist, Vincent Larderet, does in no way detract from my admiration of his performances. Schmitt almost asks for the impossible in La Tragedie, yet Larderet somehow fits it all together in a showcase of technical brilliance. I would beg Naxos to invite him to record more Schmitt. Stunning sound.






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