Schmitt: Symphony No 2; Suites from Antoine et Cléopâtre

Reviewed on Mon 04 Jun, 2018

The two Suites drawn from incidental music for a lavish 1920 staging of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Paris Opéra exalt in faux-North African exoticism.

Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) has steadily been emerging out of the shadows cast by his illustrious peers Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. There are glancing hints of all three (albeit in very different ways) in the works featured on this superbly played and engineered disc. The two Suites drawn from incidental music for a lavish 1920 staging of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Paris Opéra exalt in faux-North African exoticism, Sakari Oramo finding much to relish in its sultry, indulgently luxurious lyricism and sensuous, heady perfumes. The BBC Symphony Orchestra take to its unabashed opulence and plentiful piquant and poetic details with equal aplomb, offering a more burnished account than JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic on Naxos. The three-movement Symphony (Schmitt’s Op 137, composed at 87 in the year before his death and previously recorded by Leif Segerstam on Marco Polo) carries itself with an undemanding, if pleasing, blend of Gallic flair and finesse.
–Michael Quinn