Falletta’s Second Schmitt: Not Quite As Impressive

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

La Tragédie de Salomé is Florent Schmiitt’s most popular and frequently recorded work, yet it has proven curiously elusive to capture on disc. To date, there have been two great recordings: Martinon’s on Warner/Erato, and the much more recent Thierry Fischer on Hyperion. This newcomer, JoAnn Falletta’s second Schmitt program, has a lot going for it. So much of the score depends on instrumental color, and at lower dynamic levels Falletta revels in the music’s luscious, exotic textures–the evocative writing for harps and celesta, the wordless female voices, or the characterful woodwind writing–but as so often happens, the big climaxes fail to have the necessary, crushing impact.

Part of the problem undoubtedly stems from the somewhat boxy and claustrophobic engineering that makes the orchestra sound smaller the louder it gets. The whole thing has the feeling of being “studio bound” just when all hell breaks loose and it needs to go completely over the top. This is less of an issue in the other works. Musique sur l’eau is a brief song for voice and orchestra, nicely sung by Susan Platts. The Légende for violin and orchestra is gently lyrical, and suite from Oriane et le Prince d’Amour only has one really vigorous number, but here the issue is simply that the music itself isn’t very interesting.

Schmitt is one of those composers whose expressive arsenal was rather limited. Like a chef with only a couple of terrific recipes in his repertoire, his lobster bisque may be sensational, but even that wears thin if you have to eat it every day. In short, I wanted to enjoy this release more than I actually did, but the competition is strong and the results don’t quite measure up.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Salomé: Martinon (Warner)

    La Tragédie de Salomé; Musique sur l'eau; Oriane et le Prince d'Amour (suite); Légende for Violin and Orchestra

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