Schmitt, Florent. (1870–1958)

Autograph Letters and Humorous Visiting Ticket

An interesting pair of autograph letters, ca. 1930, from the influential French composer, pianist and critic, one to the conductor and Columbia Records musical director Georges Truc and dealing with details of a recording; the other arranging a visit with Truc's wife, pianist Lucette Descaves. The first letter (Artiguemy [Pyrénées], June 30, 2 pp.) begins by apologizing for Schmitt's late reply, and goes on to say that he is unable to answer a question about a recording from Truc, since he is away from home: "I found your letter after arriving back from a trip of three weeks. Now what shall I do, since I am 800 kilometers from any record! Are the proofs to which you refer separated from the definitive edition by a long series of operations and a large lapse of time? If so -- excuse this question, which may be ridiculous, but I ignore so much of recordings -- too bad: if you are pressed for time, as it seems, rely on your own estimation and move on. If not, that is to say if it is a matter of eight or fifteen days, then wait for me -- about October 15. At the same time, wouldn't you like to hear M. Charles Marchand [...] who would like to make a piano recording (which I am ignoring.) He is a young blind man about whom I have heard many good things..." In the second letter (St Cloud, November 9, 1 p.), Schmitt arranges a meeting with Descaves on the following Friday. "...Afterwards I am rehearsing with the quartet. Thank you so much for your invitations. But at the moment Raton [Schmitt's son] is away, Jeanne has a cold, and I have to work on pressing and useless things..." Folding creases, some slight splits and wear, overall in very good condition. 5.25 x 7.5 inches (13.6 x 19 cm).

Together with an amusing visiting ticket, on which Schmitt has signed his name and under the printed "Object of the visit" heading, has added "to see you before I die." With a significant vertical tear; otherwise good. 5.25 x 4 inches (13.4 x 10.5 cm).

"Throughout his life, Schmitt was valued for his independent spirit and refusal to be identified with any school or group....Schmitt was considered a pioneer during his lifetime, rejected by some and embraced by others for a style that influenced and helped prepare for later innovations by Stravinsky, Ravel, Honegger and Roussel." After winning he 1900 Prix de Rome and spending a period in Italy, "he indulged his passion for travel, undertaking trips to Russia and North Africa, and in the autumn of 1903 accepting a French government mission to visit Greece and Turkey. Travel represented to him a symbol of freedom and a release from intellectual and social boundaries. Some of the works he composed during this time reflect these experiences: the piano duets, Feuillets de voyage and Reflets d'Allemagne (eight waltzes inspired by German and Austrian towns), the orchestral suite Musiques en plein air and the symphonic poem Sélamik (inspired by Islam and conceived for military band)." (Jann Pasler, Grove Online.)

Georges Truc acted as musical director of Columbia Records in the late 1920's to 1930's, conducting on several seminal recordings, including the first recording of Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals (1927) and a complete recording of Ravel's L'heure Espagnole (1929). His wife, Lucette Descaves, the goddaughter of Saint-Saens and a student of Marguerite Long and Yves Nat, was a successful concert pianist and taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1941 to 1976.  (10818)

Autograph Letter
Classical Music