Florent Schmitt

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Florent Schmitt
Florent Schmitt 1900.jpg
Florent Schmitt in 1900
Born (1870-09-28)28 September 1870
Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
Died 17 August 1958(1958-08-17)

Florent Schmitt (28 September 1870 – 17 August 1958) was a French composer. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. His most famous pieces are La tragédie de Salome and Psaume XLVII (Psalm 47).


Early life[edit]

Born in Meurthe-et-Moselle, Schmitt took music lessons in Nancy with the local composer Gustave Sandré. At the age of 19 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Gabriel Fauré, Jules Massenet, Théodore Dubois, and Albert Lavignac. In 1900 he won the Prix de Rome. During the 1890s he became friendly with Frederick Delius, who was living in Paris at the time, and Schmitt prepared vocal scores for four of Delius's operas: Irmelin, The Magic Fountain, Koanga and A Village Romeo & Juliet.

From 1929 to 1939 Schmitt worked as a music critic for Le Temps, where he proved controversial. He was known to shout out his views from his seat in the hall. The music publisher Heugel called him "an irresponsible lunatic".[1] In November 1933, at a concert that included music by Kurt Weill, who had just been forced to leave Germany and was present, Schmitt led a group in shouting "Vive Hitler!".[2]


Albert Gleizes, 1914-15, Portrait de Florent Schmitt (Le Pianiste), pastel, 36 x 27 cm. Study for an oil on canvas titled Portrait de Florent Schmitt, 1914-15, 200 x 152 cm

Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. He composed examples of most of the major forms of music, except for opera. 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,[3] Dionysiaques for wind band, and two symphonies. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.

In 1907 Schmitt composed a ballet, La tragédie de Salomé, to a commission from Jacques Rouché for Loie Fuller and the Théâtre des Arts. The original ballet score required twenty instruments and lasted about an hour, In 1910 Schmitt prepared a suite using several of the ballet's movement, half as long as the ballet score, for a much expanded orchestra. The suite is much better-known, with recordings conducted by Schmitt himself, Paul Paray, Jean Martinon, Antonio de Almeida, Marek Janowski and others. There is also a recording of the 1907 original 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 the two composers fell out with each other in later years, and Stravinsky reversed his opinion of Schmitt's works.

Schmitt was one of the ten French composers who each, in 1927, contributed a dance for the children's ballet L'éventail de Jeanne. Schmitt wrote the finale, a Kermesse-Valse.

Other works include the suite for orchestra "Oriane et le Prince d'Amour" op. 83 bis (1934), the symphonic diptych to the memory of Gabriel Faure "In Memoriam" op. 72 (1937), the "Ronde Buelesque" op. 78 (1927), the "Legende pour alto et orchestre" op. 66 (1918), and the orchestral fresco "Anthony and Cleopatra" (1920).

Later life[edit]

Though he was one of the most often performed French composers during the first four decades of the 20th century, Schmitt fell into comparative neglect, though he never stopped composing. (In 1952 he was admitted to the Légion d'honneur.) He became the subject of attacks — both in his last years and posthumously — over his pro-German sympathies during the 1930s, and over his willingness to work for the Vichy regime in the 1940s, as had other eminent French musicians, notably Alfred Cortot and Joseph Canteloube.

He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1958, aged 87.

The 1990s and 2000s witnessed a revival of his output, and an increased coverage of it on compact disc. Beginning in late 2012, the Invencia Piano Duo (Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn), in collaboration with Naxos Records, on its Grand Piano series, released four CDs of Schmitt's complete duo-piano works.[4][5][6] The collection includes Schmitt's Trois rapsodies, Op. 53, and the first recording of Schmitt's Sept pièces, Op. 15, composed in 1899. It also includes one of two unpublished duets by Schmitt, Rhapsodie parisienne (1900).[4]

Main Works[edit]


  • 3 symphonies :
    • Symphonie concertante for orchestra and piano
    • Second Symphony,
    • Janiana symphony for strings
  • Antoine et Cléopâtre
  • Enfants
  • Introït, récit et congé op.113 for cello and orchestra, (1949)
  • Kermesse-Valse from L'éventail de Jeanne, (1926)
  • Le Palais Hanté [The Haunted Palace]
  • Le Petit Elfe Ferme-l'œil
  • Légende for alto saxophone (or viola, or violin) and orchestra
  • Salammbô (film music)
  • Salammbô (3 Suites)


  • Pour presque tous les temps for flute and piano trio
  • Saxophone Quartet
  • Flute Quartet
  • String Quartet
  • Piano Quintet
  • Sonata for violin and piano
  • Trio sonatina for flute, clarinet and keyboard
  • String trio
  • Suite for Trumpet and piano (op.133)


  • Le chant de nuit pour soloists, chorus and orchestra
  • Mass for four voices and organ
  • Psaume XLVII for soprano, chorus, organ and orchestra (1906)


  • La Tragédie de Salomé (1907)
  • Oriane et le prince d'amour


  • Reflets d'Allemagne opus 28 (1905)
  • Musiques foraines opus 22
  • Crépuscules opus 56
  • Ombres opus 64
  • Mirages op. 70


  1. ^ Leslie De'Ath. "Florent Schmitt in Oxford Music Online for a full biography and list of works". Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Schebera, Jürgen (1995). Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life. Yale University Press. p. 221. Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Florent Schmitt", in Sax, Mule & Co, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Paris: H & D, 2004, pp. 175-176
  4. ^ a b Nones, Phillip (13 September 2012). "Get ready for Florent Schmitt's duo-piano repertoire … all four CDs' worth!". Florentschmitt.com. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Old Dominion University (13 September 2012). "Inside ODU | CD by ODU's Invencia Piano Duo Highlights Works of French Composer". Blue.odu.edu. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Old Dominion University (29 April 2013). "Inside ODU | ODU Invencia Piano Duo Recording Praised in International Reviews". Blue.odu.edu. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 

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