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Schmidt: Symphony No. 2

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 28, 1992
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Editorial Reviews

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Schmidt (1874-1939) is an interesting musical figure in that he is a curious bridge from the 19th century to the 20th in Austro-Hungarian (or Czechoslovakian) music. After Mahler's death in 1911, Schmidt was considered to be Vienna's leading composer (even though Schoenberg lived nearby). Schmidt's music is ornately Romantic and has about it a fin de siecle ambience, a sense of the old aristocratic orders languishing in their twilight years. The Symphony 2 (of 1913) does not have a hint of the Great War to come. It's written in the grand manner of Strauss, but with a touch of Bruckner for structure. --Paul Cook

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 2 In E Flat Major: I. Lebhaft - Schmidt
  2. Symphony No. 2 In E Flat Major: II.Allegretto con variazioni: Einfach und zart - I. In demselben Zeitmass II. Etwas fliessender III. Schnell und leicht IV. Schnell (Dasselbe Zeitmass) V. Sehr schnell VI. Langsam und ruhig VII. Sehr schnell, et al. - - Schmidt
  3. Symphony No. 2 In E Flat Major: III. Finale: Langsam - Schmidt


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Neeme Järvi
  • Composer: Franz Schmidt
  • Audio CD (October 28, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000AJH
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,621 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

My wife and I were in attendance -- all the way up there in Orchestra Hall's gallery -- the night this performance was recorded.

I remember we looked over the programme and wondered to each other "Franz WHO? What's this all about? Drat!" We were in for a boring evening it seemed.

Yet roughly three minutes into the first movement (the second major brass crecendo I believe) my wife whispered "Hey -- this is great!" And so it was for the rest of the performance. Breathtaking.

The CD captures that night's sound of Orchestra Hall/CSO perfectly. Schmidt may not be for everyone, but he deserves a much wider audience. Get this CD if you want to (a) discover a new and somewhat offbeat musical personality and/or (b) show off your audio equipment to your friends by letting them hear the full glory of pre-renovation Orchestra Hall.
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Franz Schmidt was an approximate contemporary of Mahler and he actually played in an orchestra, where Mahler conducted. But he is not as famous as Mahler. His music unquestionablly is more German, influenced by Brahms, Wagner and possibly Bruckner. This second symphony has full of romantic legacy, more readily accessible, than e.g. his fourth symphony, for who like classical or romantic music. The finale is just amazing. The famous brass of the Chicago symphony roared to the climax and to the end. I respect Neeme Jarvi for recording such a wonderful, but rarely-performed piece.
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The four symphonies of Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) constitute an unexpected development in twentieth century music. Although they qualify as "conservative" in their idiom (indebted to Brahms while not uninfluenced by Wagner on the one hand and Reger on the other), they demonstrate an ingenious filling of old bottles with new wine. In the first two symphonies (1899 and 1913), the forms are baroque and early-classical. Thus, the First Movement of Symphony No. 1 follows the "form" of a French Overture (as in Bach's suites), complete with the dotted rhythms, but the harmonies might be those of Bruckner. Symphony No. 2, from the war years, wraps two sonata-allegro movements around a large-scale variations on a languorous Hungarian-sounding theme, mostly in slow tempi, but incorporating a faster scherzo. Schmidt calls on a large orchestra, making requirements similar to those stipulated by Richard Strauss in his biggest scores: Five clarinets, eight horns, four trumpets. The massive instrumentation matches the heroic key of the symsphony, E-Flat Major, the same as in Beethoven's Third and Strauss's "Ein Heldenleben." Listeners will often think of Strauss during the fifteen minutes or so of the First Movement, with its upward-surging motifs in the brass, dominated by the horns. (The quirky thought that flits through my mind as the movement plays is that this is what Bruckner would have sounded like if he had decided to write a Strauss tone-poem.) In the long Second Movement, the known reference is Max Reger, who specialized in gigantic theme-and-variation structures for orchestra. Schmidt liked this form: He wrote a free-standing "Variations on a Hussar's Song" for orchestra, a Variations on a Theme by Beethoven for Piano and Orchestra, and a Chaconne for organ, later orchestrated.Read more ›
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Franz Schmidt's exhuberant and deliriously life-affirming 2nd Symphony has finally begun to achieve some degree of recognition among enthusiasts of the early 20th-century Austro-Germanic repertoire. It's about time! For many years, the only way to hear this work was on a mid 70's LP import....a live performance by the Austrian Radio Orchestra conducted by Milan Horvat. I still have my carefully-preserved copy somewhere, for old time's sake. Fast forward to spring of 1989, when then-president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Henry Fogel was on the verge of realizing one of his life-long dreams: bestowing upon the musical world a brand new, state-of-the-art recording of the Schmidt 2nd, finally being played by an orchestra up to the task of this extremely demanding music (the string writing in the first movement's jolly, bustling toccata-like main theme is regarded as among the most difficult in the repertoire).

Mr Fogel had a long and turbulent association with the Schmidt 2nd. In the 1960's, as executive director of the Syracuse Symphony, he had worked for the better part of the decade to record the work with the orchestra's music director, Karl Kritz. By 1969, all agreed that the players were ready to tackle the work in performance AND record it for ABC/Westminster Records. After the final rehearsal, Maestro Kritz had begun to feel ill; he conducted the Friday night performance but, tragically, passed away before the 2nd and final performance. The recording project was scrapped.

Again we fast forward to Mr Fogel's tenure with the Chicago Symphony.
Read more ›
1 Comment 9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I have a vast collection of 20th-century CDs, and this is one of my 4 or 5 all-time favorites. If you like music of Brucknerian scope in a major key, without Mahlerian angst, and with a relatively brisk pace, this is the CD for you.
The first movement's second theme is one of the most joyous of the century. And the work's conclusion! Awesomely played by the Chicago Symphony's brass section, it makes the Great Gates of Kiev seem like the door to a P.O. box.
An absolute must for any fan of Straussian grandiloquence! Grab it before it goes out of print.
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