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Classical - Released September 11, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
The music of composer Franz Schmidt fell out of the repertory after it emerged that he had been hailed by the Nazis, although he apparently never asked for the honor and was less than comfortable with it. His essentially conservative style put him out of commission for several more decades during the period of modernist repression, but there have been modest signs of a revival, including a complete cycle from conductor Neeme Järvi, leading the Chicago and Detroit Symphony Orchestras (not yet heard by this writer). Now his son Paavo weighs in with this set, leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. The music will be new to most listeners, and it's attractive stuff. Its most striking feature is a radiant, optimistic tone, defined right from the first movement of the Symphony No. 1 in E major. Järvi grabs the listener's attention here and doesn't release across substantial movements that are mostly between ten and 20 minutes long. A place to start sampling would be the entr'acte, an Intermezzo from the opera Notre Dame, which exemplifies the almost mystical tone Schmidt's music retained, even amid great personal tragedy. That tragedy is explicitly addressed in Schmidt's Symphony No. 4 in C major, designed "a requiem for my daughter" by the composer; the daughter died in childbirth in 1932. That work is perhaps the most Straussian of Schmidt's symphonies with its transfigured trumpet theme at the beginning and end, but Schmidt's style, although certainly conservative by the 1930s, was not derivative of anybody. It is not so much a matter of tonality, where he is, like Mahler, sometimes pushing the edges and, at other times, innocently diatonic. Instead, it is the historical scope of his music, encompassing styles as far back as Schubert (hear the echoes of the "Great" Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944) in the Symphony No. 3 in A major, while living very much in the world of Strauss and Bruckner overall. Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony catch the energy in the music and display no weaknesses over a very large orchestra in these live recordings. It seems possible that this release will expand the big symphonic repertory a bit. Try the music out and speculate on this possibility. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 27, 2020 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Classical - Released March 26, 2021 | Accentus Music

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Classical - Released January 1, 2003 | PentaTone

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Sacred Oratorios - Released January 1, 2008 | Chandos

Booklet Distinctions 10 de Classica-Répertoire
Franz Schmidt's Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (The Book with Seven Seals) is a powerful setting of texts adapted from the Apocalypse of St. John for six vocalists, choir, organ, and orchestra, and was composed between 1935 and 1937, near the end of the composer's career. In its most potent passages, this oratorio vividly depicts the cataclysmic events described in the Bible's last book, but much of Schmidt's music evokes the Romantic past and draws inspiration from the great works of his time, such as Richard Wagner's operas and Richard Strauss' tone poems, as well as Johannes Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem and possibly even Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8. Fans of music on the grand scale will find Schmidt's epic score to be expansive in line, harmonically rich and varied, contrapuntally vigorous, and profoundly majestic in expression, very much a Bach-like summation of the age. Some critics have contended that, because of its most bellicose and dissonant parts, Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln anticipates the horrors of World War II, yet this is only an interpretation after the fact, and it is unlikely that Schmidt had any such premonitions, considering his political naïveté. In terms of musical interpretation, this performance by Kristjan Järvi, the Wiener Singverein, and the Tonkünstler-Orchester is striking in its effects, emotionally disturbing in its violent climaxes, and almost cosmic in its depth and spaciousness, thanks to the multichannel DSD recording and the hybrid SACD format. Forces are audibly spread out, and the voices, choir, and orchestra seem to have vast dimensions, so audiophiles will find this package to be a sonic extravaganza, and the committed performance makes this 2008 Chandos release required listening for Schmidt's admirers. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 16, 2010 | Naxos

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Symphonic Music - Released April 21, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Franz Schmidt is not yet the object of a full-fledged revival, but the increased attention paid to his symphonies may well inspire one. The ambitious Symphony No. 2 in E flat major has received two major releases in 2017, one by Stefan Blunier and the Beethoven Orchester Bonn on MDG, and the other by Semyon Bychkov and the Vienna Philharmonic on Sony Classical. While this is the longest and most challenging of Schmidt's four symphonies, its rich harmonies, pastoral melodies, and vibrant orchestration are especially appealing to fans of post-Romantic music. The work evokes Schmidt's teacher, Anton Bruckner, whose influence is felt in the expansiveness of the form and the epic grandeur of the music, though the most obvious source for inspiration appears to be Richard Strauss, whose dynamic tone poems Schmidt clearly admired. The energetic counterpoint, heroic themes, and elaborate scoring are reminiscent of Strauss' Don Juan, Ein Heldenleben, and Also sprach Zarathustra, and this connection naturally suggests pairing the symphony with short Strauss pieces, such as the Festival Prelude on Blunier's recording. Bychkov has coupled the symphony with Strauss' Dreaming by the Fireside, a symphonic interlude from the opera Intermezzo, and this selection is appropriate because its gentle lyricism is a fine match for the symphony's warmth and radiance. The playing by the Vienna Philharmonic is first-rate in every regard, and Bychkov's generous interpretation raises hopes for a complete Schmidt cycle. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released September 1, 1996 | Chandos

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Classical - Released March 4, 2016 | Oehms Classics

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Chamber Music - Released August 26, 2016 | CPO

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Classical - Released March 31, 2009 | Naxos

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Classical - Released October 23, 2006 | Preiser Records

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Chamber Music - Released January 1, 2016 | Orfeo

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | CPO

After tragically losing his right arm in World War I, pianist Paul Wittgenstein sought out works for the left-hand that would save his career. Thanks to his family's considerable wealth, he was able to commission pieces from the major composers of his day, including Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel, Sergey Prokofiev, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Paul Hindemith, and Benjamin Britten. Yet of all who wrote concertos and chamber works for him, Wittgenstein preferred Franz Schmidt above all others, and still expressed his admiration for him years later, when the composer was dead and forgotten. The Concertante Variations on a Theme of Beethoven for piano, left-hand, and orchestra is based on a melody taken from the Scherzo of the Violin Sonata No. 5, "Spring." Schmidt deploys every conceivable trick and mood to vary this quirky, syncopated tune, and maintains remarkably clear textures and a light, playful tone throughout. The Concerto in E flat major for piano, left-hand, and orchestra is altogether different in feeling, resembling Schmidt's symphonies in its serious tone and following a course of development that is symphonic in scope. This CPO release by pianist Markus Becker and the NDR Radiophilharmonie, conducted by Eiji Ouè, presents both the Beethoven Variations and the Piano Concerto with expressive playing, coherent interpretation, and terrific sound. The piano and orchestra are well-balanced and carefully separated, so every part is audible, and the soloist is centrally placed and clearly heard, even when the accompaniment is at its thickest. Listeners who enjoy rich, post-Romantic music and collectors of Schmidt's music will find this disc pleasurable and add it to their libraries posthaste. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 5, 2004 | Warner Classics

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Opera - Released July 30, 2013 | CapriccioNR

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Chamber Music - Released January 1, 1996 | Nimbus Records

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Classical - Released August 12, 2016 | CapriccioNR

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Classical - Released July 27, 2010 | Naxos

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Classical - Released September 29, 2009 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
On this 2009 Naxos release, Vassily Sinaisky and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra turn in an emotionally committed and sonically lustrous performance of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, to follow their recording of the Symphony No. 1 in E major earlier in the same year. With this luminous and surprisingly inventive work, composed between 1911 and 1913, Schmidt abandoned his youthful and imitative Romantic style, which had been heavily influenced by the music of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, and advanced toward the complex harmonies, unexpected modulations, fluid rhythms, and organic counterpoint of his maturity. Fans of lush post-Romantic music will find much to like in the Symphony No. 2, for Schmidt's rich, atmospheric style seems an agreeable blending of the sounds of Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler, with periodic forays into the colors and textures of Impressionism; yet all of this is unified through the integrity of an original artist. That Schmidt was a master is readily apparent in this symphony and in the elaborately constructed Fuga Solemnis for organ, brass, and percussion, which fills out the disc. In both works, the levels of his creativity are extraordinarily high and his expression is continually compelling. There is always some bold feature or novel combination to hold the attention and hardly, if ever, a cliché to distract. Naxos provides a warm and radiant reproduction for the symphony, though the change of venue from concert hall to church creates a noticeable difference in the recording of Fuga Solemnis, which is quite resonant, yet occasionally details are blurred. © TiVo