“an irresponsible lunatic”

22 07 2009

Today, I’m listening to Florent Schmitt: Piano works for 4 hands” by Christian Ivaldi & Jean-Claude Pennetier.

It’s very easy to separate this contemplative, glittering music from the controversial historical figure. I found an interesting article that talks about his importance on the musical scene and his fall from grace, both during his lifetime and beyond, summed up in the Wikipedia entry:

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 (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florent_Schmitt )

Here is a bit from the music article (the Wikipedia entry appears to be based on this article:

He enjoyed his powerful position as grand-high-arbiter-of-taste during the years when he wrote regular reviews for Le Temps (1929-39), as much as he enjoyed creating scandal at live concerts by shouting controversial jibes from the loges. These bursts of élan were always sparked by his sense, usually at premieres of new works, that the audience was “missing the point”, and he would as readily champion aurally daunting avant-garde works as he would decry the popular. The most noteworthy incident occurred in 1933, when songs of Kurt Weill were being performed at the Salle Pleyel. Schmitt’s scandalous shouts from the audience exposed an anti-Semitic arrogance that resulted in a newspaper scandal, with words of support from Weingartner, and condemnation from just about everyone else, including the publisher Heugel, who called him an “irresponsible lunatic”.

You can read the full article at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Jun02/Schmitt.htm

Or Click here to listen to “Florent Schmitt: Piano works for 4 hands” by Christian Ivaldi & Jean-Claude Pennetier.

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