Text Box: HARMONIE AUTOGRAPHS AND MUSIC INC.

MUSIC AUTOGRAPHS & ANTIQUARIAN

Price: $400.00

FINE CONDITION

FLORENT SCHMITT - COMPOSER
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Phone: 212-860-5541  *  Fax: 917-677-8247

 

The French composer writes a three page autographed letter signed on both sides of Comédie Française stationary c. 1916.

Comédie Française

 

Monsieur Director

 

Alfred Cortot advises me to come find you on the subject of the music for the Choruses of Athalie. I would be very grateful if you would kindly make an appointment to see me as soon as you can, a temporary leave from the army gives me some leisure time--and as I am somewhat ill I would like to leave Paris as soon as possible to enjoy a freedom I haven't had for twenty-five months.


Please receive, Monsieur Director, my respectful greetings.


Florent Schmitt
13 rue Damrémont XVIII

 

Schmitt (1870-1958) in the Fall of 1914, at the ripe old age of forty four enlisted in the French Army and requested to be sent to the front, leaving in 1916.  It was his second time in the military as he had played the flute in a French military band in the 1890’s.  He wrote to Igor Stravinsky describing his enlistment as, Two less than amusing years of militarism. Despite the seven year age difference, Schmitt and Cortot.  During World War I, Cortot did not enlist, instead he organized musical events in Paris and assisted poor musicians who were unable to perform during the conflict.  He had his hand on the pulse on everything that was going on in Paris.   Before the War, Sarah Bernhardt who was getting on in years was planning a series of performances of Racine’s 1691 final tragedy “Athalie” at the Comédie Française, her old theatre.  The project would not be realized until 1920 when she was seventy five and at her theatre.  What we do know is Felix Mendelssohn wrote incidental music completed in 1845 for the play, his op. 74 which includes a well known march and choruses.  They were often utilized for performances.  As Schmitt did not compose any known incidental music for the play and was not a choral conductor, it would appear that he may have been approached to compose new music, or for some arrangements; possibly for a much smaller orchestra than is called for in Mendelssohn’s score.  The play which served as Bernhardt’s return to Paris was given to rave reviews on April 2, 1920 at her theatre, which even made the New York Times.  All of this despite the amputation of her leg.  The music was not mentioned in the review.  

 

It would appear the musical project surrounding the play did not come to fruition.  He did write two incidental suites for Shakespeare’s play “Antoine et Cleopatre” op. 69 a & b,  entr'acte ballets for 1920 performances at the Opera de Paris with Ida Rubinstein portraying Cleopatra.