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Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, May 2013

The program by the Invencia Piano Duo—Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn—opens with Trois rhapsodies, Op. 53 (1904), a work conceived in the Romantic tradition of the picture-post-card in national character: Francaise, Polonaise, and Viennoise. The first portrait, that of France, emanates a Gallic spirit in spite of the often thick counterpoint of the piano duet.

The longest of the set, the Polonaise, treads rather slowly and meditatively, its glitter wafting Chopin’s melancholy. Some of the harmonies wax into modal realms while the textures suggest balletic combinations, a la Satie. Occasionally, the two keyboards move into opposing meters, a rather audacious move that prefigures Stravinsky and Bartok. The Viennese element begins with an almost jazzy gesture; then it reluctantly yields up its spirit to the likes of the Strauss family, although in a rather mocking tone that prefigures Ravel’s La Valse. Gaiety and surface glitter abound in the various swirls and figurations, more rhythmic than melodic. The sense of wry wit continues into the final pages, whose delayed coda has a series of stretti invested that make way for decisive final cadence.

The 1899 Sept pieces, Op. 15 represent Schmitt’s first large-scale cycle for piano duet, rather in the style of Robert Schumann. The opening Somnolence offers a pattern reminiscent of parlando Debussy cross-fertilized by Beethoven slow movement from the Pathetique Sonata. Souvenir de Ribeaupierre celebrates a medieval castle with the plainchant and gentle contrapuntal innocence we often find in Grieg and Faure’s Dolly Suite. The technical demands for the performers of Scintillement combines syncopated elements of Chabrier and Bizet’s Jeux d’infants. Souhaits de jeune fille (A Young Girl’s Wishes) takes its cue from Debussy, but more pearly and magical. Promenade a l’etang (A Walk by the Pool) suggests Chopin’s harmonic world, although the cognoscenti know that this subject has a luscious piece by Loeffler as well. Some influence of Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau intrudes here, too. The performance by The Ivencia Duo casts haunting ripples into the water. The ternary sixth piece, Fete septentrionale, has an impish vitality, a sly dance we might attribute to Chabrier or Gottschalk, if he were in a European frame of mind. The last of the set, the serene Traversee heureuse (A Happy Crossing), might hint at the exoticism of Borodin, whom the French consistently admire.

The Rhapsodie parisienne (1900) opens with a bold gesture, almost in the manner of Liszt, and its grand rhetoric belies the fact that Schmitt kept the piece unpublished, despite his intention to orchestrate it. The American premier of the piece came via the Ivencia Duo in Culpeper, Virginia, 18 March 2011. The insistent writing and heavy stretti owe debts to Chabrier, but the rhythmic energy surpasses that composer and moves into Koechlin and Stravinsky. The City of Light has its ghostly moments in this intricately wrought and glittering piece, certainly adumbrating Ravel’s La Valse. A real tour de force, the grand sweep of the finale surely brings down the house, if played in concert.

Both the Sept Pieces and the Rhapsodie parisienne receive their world premier recordings on this disc. As commentator Jerry E. Rife claims, this “music deserves rediscovery—a noble goal of these important recordings.” © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

MusicWeb International, May 2013

They [Invencia] play together with impeccable timing and elegance, not to mention considerable virtuosity, as this recital demonstrates. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

James Harrington
American Record Guide, May 2013

[Rhapsodie Parisienne] alone is worth the price of the disc—an ebullient piece bursting with energy and brilliance, I’m sure it has become a staple of Invencia’s concert repertoire. Their performance here is on two pianos owing to the intricate and complex nature of the work. Given the end result, you’ll get no objection from me.

This is my second review of these marvelous musicians.

Grand Piano has impressed me with a number of releases recently. Excellent recorded sound and perceptive booklet notes have become expected. Based on this recording, the duo’s previous records, and reviews of their concert performances, GP has found an exceptional pair of musicians. Schmitt’s extensive oeuvre for two pianists could have no better musicians, and I eagerly await the remaining three volumes in this series. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Michel Fleury
Classica, May 2013

The Trois Rapsodies is highly representative of the blend between blazing Romanticism and humor befitting “The Wild Boar of the Ardennes” [Schmitt’s nickname], fully employing the layering of textures and colors offered by the utilization of two pianos.

Lush comfort and elegance: these are the two qualities that are shared by the performers and the music [Sept Pièces]. Their round and mellow timbre, their total engagement and perfection of the technique have earned us an authoritative version of this rare composition. © Classica

Daniel Foley
The WholeNote, January 2013

Volume One offers a familiar work followed by two world premiere recordings. The first item, the Trois Rapsodies for two pianos Op.53 (1903–1904), receives its fifth recording on disc. It is vintage Schmitt, rhythmically supple, harmonically inventive, and beautifully scored with telling thematic interchanges between the two pianos. The earlier Sept Pièces, Op.15 (1889) dates from Schmitt’s student days. Scored for two pianists at a single piano, the sonorities are more intimate and homophonic. Though it seems to me that Schmitt has either not quite found or is intentionally suppressing his distinctive creative voice here for academic reasons, this low-key, Schumann-esque multi-movement work is winningly genial and technically assured in every respect. The final item, the Rhapsodie Parisienne, also for four-hand piano, makes a stronger visceral impact. A spirited, asymmetric and impulsive waltz, the manuscript of this unpublished work from 1900 may have been intended to become a larger orchestral work presaging Ravel’s later La Valse. I look forward to future unknown gems from this very interesting composer. © 2013 The WholeNote Read complete review

Colin Clarke
International Piano, January 2013

Schmitt’s finale [Trois Rapsodies], itself a waltz (“Viennoise”) is harmonically adventurous and the duo bring great swing to its later stages.

…the Sept Pièces was Schmitt’s first large-scale cycle for piano duet and it exudes a mood of sweet reminiscence.

The Invencia Duo’s nonchalant delivery perfectly matches the spirit of the piece [Rhapsodie parisienne] as they track the harmony’s sweet twists and turns with exquisite precision. © 2013 International Piano

Burkhard Schäfer
Piano News, January 2013

Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) always remained an outsider even in his native France, and therefore it is not surprising that the composer—multifaceted, active, but very difficult to classify—could not make the name for himself, the name that he duly deserved in the rest of Europe. At the same time, this remarkable CD clearly demonstrates that he may be put on the equal level with the great compatriots in his profession: Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, to mention just a few.

These compositions, extremely intricate contrapuntally but at the same time highly inspiring and unusually sensuous in their every fiber, have the great fortune to have found the congenial masters of interpretation in the Armenian-Ukrainian Invencia Piano Duo. Rigor, levity, esprit, and the sparkling colorization—not only in “Trois rapsodies” for two pianos, but also in the remaining works for piano, four hands—are the characteristics with which the duo precisely captures the wit of these works, making it almost unbelievable that the “Sept pièces” has only now had its world-premiere recording. One may argue about the artwork on the front cover of this CD, as well as the entire Grand Piano series, but certainly not about the sound quality, because rarely has one heard piano music in such spectacularly good sound as in the case of this Schmitt recording. An outstanding production! © Piano News

– Translated with the help of Frederick Lubich

Geoff Brown
BBC Music Magazine, January 2013

A useful exploration of Ravel’s contemporary Schmitt. The chromatic harmonies of the Trois Rhapsodies are delightful… © BBC Music Magazine

M.D. Ridge
Artsong Update, November 2012

Few pleasures can compare with hearing unfamiliar music superbly played by an extraordinary pair of musicians, the Invencia Piano Duo…hypnotically charming, with familiar harmonic language and rhythms used in surprising ways.

This very accessible recording has admirably clear, informative liner notes by Jerry E. Rife and Kasparov. Casual listeners will find Schmitt’s music pleasingly attractive, while more knowledgeable listeners will find subtlety, drama and beauty in every selection. © 2012 Artsong Update

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

Florent Schmitt’s reputation today resides in a handful of highly coloured orchestral works, with precious little known of his piano music for four hands. Though born in France in 1870, and totally educated there, he was far more cosmopolitan in his outlook than the other French composers of his time - Debussy, Ravel, Roussel and Poulenc. He was also far less predictable and never really forged a personal voice, but moved around as the inclination took him. He was also extensively travelled, and, like a magpie, collected many and varied external influences. Chameleon-like he could also change colours within a work, as this disc clearly demonstrates. It opens with Three Rhapsodies which graphically picture its three titles - Francaise, Polonaise and Viennoise - its moods rapidly changing with moments that would be described as ‘coffee-house popular classics’. The two works for four hands are both world premiere recordings, each of the Seven Pieces, dating from 1899, given a descriptive title. Though they are often quite demanding, they have that feel of light music for talented amateurs who would enjoy playing for family pleasures. The Rhapsodie parisienne was one of two unpublished works, that, it would appear, Schmitt intended to orchestrate at some juncture. They have that slightly neurotic quality of Ravel’s La Valse, and probably on reflection he thought they were too close to that work for comfort. The Invencia Piano Duo are based in America, its two members, Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn, from Armenian and Ukrainian backgrounds. Their playing is elegant, extremely well delineated and well attuned to a French idiom. An ‘in house’ project, they also act as record producers, editors and booklet note writers. The sound quality is very realistic. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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