Florent Schmitt  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Florent Schmitt (September 28, 1870, Blamont, Meurthe et Moselle – August 17, 1958, Neuilly-sur-Seine) was a French composer. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1889, where he studied under Albert Lavignac, Theodore Dubois, Jules Massenet, Gustave Sandre, and Gabriel Fauré. In 1900 Schmitt won the Prix de Rome on his fourth attempt.


Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. He composed examples of most of the major forms of music, except for opera. Today his most famous pieces are La tragédie de Salome and Psalm XLVII. His piano quintet in B minor, written in 1908, helped establish his reputation. Other works include a violin sonata (Sonate Libre), a late string quartet, a saxophone quartet, Dionysiaques for wind band, and two symphonies. He was part of the group known as the Apaches. His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.

Schmitt composed a ballet La tragédie de Salomé in 1907 as a commission from Jacques Rouché for Loie Fuller and the Théâtre des Arts. From the original ballet score, scored for twenty instruments and lasting about an hour, Schmitt prepared a symphonic poem of the same name, half as long as the ballet score, for a much expanded orchestra. The symphonic poem version is much better-known (with recordings conducted by Schmitt himself, Paul Paray, Jean Martinon, Antonio de Almeida, Marek Janowski and others), but there is also an excellent recording of the 1907 ballet score under Patrick Davin on the Marco Polo label. The rhythmic syncopations, polyrhythms, percussively treated chords, bitonality, and scoring of Schmitt's work anticipate Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. While composing The Rite of Spring Stravinsky acknowledged that Schmitt's ballet gave him greater joy than any work he had heard in a long time, but they fell out with each other in later years, and Stravinsky reversed his opinion of Schmitt's works. In 1927 he was one of the ten French composers who each contributed a dance for the children's ballet L'Éventail de Jeanne; he wrote the finale, a Kermesse-Valse.

From 1929 to 1939 Schmitt worked as a music critic for Le Temps, in which role he created considerable controversy, not least for his indiscreet habit of shouting out verdicts from his seat in the hall. The music publisher Heugel went so far as to call him "an irresponsible lunatic".Template:Fact

Later life

Having been one of the most often performed of French composers in the period between the two world wars, Schmitt afterwards fell into comparative obscurity, although he continued writing music till the end (and in 1952 he became a member of the Légion d'honneur). He became the subject of attacks — both in his old age and posthumously — over his pro-German sympathies during the 1930s, and over his willingness to work for the Vichy regime later on (as indeed other eminent French musicians did, notably Alfred Cortot and Joseph Canteloube). But the 1990s witnessed a small-scale revival of his output, and an increased coverage of it on compact disc.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Florent Schmitt" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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