Schmitt, Florent

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Schmitt, Florent

Schmitt, Florent, outstanding French composer; b. Blâmont, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Sept. 28, 1870; d. Neuillysur-Seine, near Paris, Aug. 17, 1958. He studied piano with H. Hess and harmony with G. Sandre at the Nancy Cons. (1887–89), then entered the Paris Cons., where he took courses in harmony with Dubois and Lavignac, fugue with Gédalge, and composition with Massenet and Fauré. He won the second Prix de Rome with his cantata Frédégonde (1897) and the Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata Sémiramis (1900). He spent the years 1901–04 in the Villa Medicis in Rome, sending to the Académie several important instrumental and choral works; then traveled in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey. In 1906 he returned to Paris, where he served as a member of the executive committee of the Société Musicale Indépendante from its foundation in 1909; was also a member of the Société Nationale de Musique. He became an influential music critic, writing regularly for Le Temps (1919–39); was also director of the Lyons Cons. (1922–24). In 1936 he was elected to Dukas’s place in the Institut; also became a Commander of the Légion d’honneur. Schmitt spent his formative years in the ambience of French symbolism in poetry and Impressionism in music, and he followed these directions in his programmatically conceived orch. music; he nonetheless developed a strong, distinctive style of his own, mainly by elaborating the contrapuntal fabric of his works and extending the rhythmic design to intricate, asymmetrical combinations; he also exploited effects of primitivistic percussion, in many respects anticipating the developments of modern Russian music. The catalogue of his works is very long; he continued to compose until his death at the age of 87.


DRAMATIC : Ba11et: La Tragédie de Salome (Paris, Nov. 9, 1907; orch. suite, Paris, Jan. 8, 1911); Le Petit Elfe Ferme–l’oeil, after Hans Christian Andersen (Paris, Feb. 29, 1924); Oriane la sans–égale (Paris, Jan. 7, 1938). Incidental Music To: Antoine et Cléopâtre, after Shakespeare (Paris, June 14, 1920); Reflets (Paris, May 20, 1932). ORCH .: En été (1894); Musiques de pleinair (1897–99); Le Palais hanté, after Poe (1900–1904); 3 rapsodies (1903–04); Scherzo vif for Violin and Orch. (1903–10); Feuillets de voyage (1903–13); Reflets de l’Allemagne, suite (1905); Sélamlik, symphonic poem for Military Band (1906); Puppazzi, suite (1907); Légende for Viola or Saxophone and Orch. (1918); Mirages: Tristesse de Pan, La Tragique Chevauchée (1921); Fonctionnaire MCMXII: Inaction en musique (1924; Paris, Jan. 16, 1927); Danse d’Abisag (1925); Salammbô, after Flaubert (1925); Ronde burlesque (1927; Paris, Jan. 12, 1930); Çhançunik (humorous phonetic spelling of Sens unique, i.e., “one-way street”; Paris, Feb. 15, 1930); Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orch. (Boston, Nov. 25, 1932, composer soloist); Suite sans esprit de suite (1937; Paris, Jan. 29, 1938); Branle de sortie (1938; Paris, Jan. 21, 1939); Janiana: Sym. for Strings (score entitled Sym. No. 2; 1941; Paris, May 1, 1942); Habeyssée for Violin and Orch. (phonetic representation of “ABC,” as pronounced in French; Paris, March 14, 1947); Sym. (1957; Strasbourg, June 15, 1958). CHAMBER : Scherzo-pastorale for Flute and Piano (1889); 4 pièces for Violin and Piano (1901); Piano Quintet (1901–08); Andante et Scherzo for Harp and String Quartet (1906); Lied et Scherzo for Double Wind Quintet (1910); Sonate libre en deux parties enchainées for Violin and Piano (1919); Suite en rocaille for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Harp (1934); Sonatine en trio for Flute, Clarinet, and Harpsichord (1935); Minorités for Flute, Violin, and Piano (1938); Hasards for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1939); A tours d’anches for Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano (1939); Quartet for Saxophones (1941); String Trio (1944); Quartet for Flutes (1944); String Quartet (1945–48). Piano: Musiques intimes (2 sets, 1890–1900 and 1898–1904); Soirs, 10 preludes (n.d.); Ballade de la neige (1896); Pièces romantiques (1900–1908); Nuits romaines (1901); 3 danses (1935; also for Orch.); Clavecin obtempérant, suite (1945). VOCAL : Tristesse au Jardin for Voice and Orch. (1897–1908); Musique sur l’eau for Voice and Orch. (1898); Danse des Devadasis for Voice, Chorus, and Orch. (1900–1908); Psaume XLVII for Soprano, Chorus, Orch., and Organ (1904; Paris, Dec. 27, 1906); Chant de guerre for Tenor, Men’s Chorus, and Orch. (1914); Kerob-Shal for Tenor and Orch. (1920–24); Fête de la lumière for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1937); L’Arbre entre tous for Chorus and Orch. (1939); A contre-voix for Chorus (1943); other choruses; motets; solo songs.


P. Ferroud, Autour de F. S. (Paris, 1927); Y. Hucher, F. S., L’homme et l’artiste (Paris, 1953); Y. Hucher and M. Raveau, L’Oeuvre de F. S. (Paris, I960).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire