FRANZ SCHMIDT - Symphony No. 2

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FRANZ SCHMIDT - Symphony No. 2 - Beethoven Orchester Bonn - Stefan Blunier (Conductor) - 760623200668 - Released: August 2017 - MDG 9372006-6

Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) was an Austrian composer who studied composition under Bruckner, was a cellist from 1896 to 1914 in the Court Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic, where Mahler admired his playing, and also played in a string quartet led by Oskar Adler, a close friend of Arnold Schoenberg. You can probably tell by all this what his influences were, and what his music sounds like. As mentioned before in this review of his Symphony No. 4, the composer he resembles the most, to my ears anyway, is Richard Strauss, especially in thematic layout and orchestration. Music conceived on a high level and scored by a master craftsman. And yet despite all this, his music, when compared to other composers of his generation like Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius, etc ... remains generally ignored. Hard to understand when you consider the exquisite contrapuntal writing that opens the final movement of the Symphony No. 2 in E flat major.

Could it be that the reason why his music has gone unnoticed lies not with the music itself, but rather its disposition and temperament. It's definitely 20th century music but with a 19th century outlook at its core. This is music generally devoid of the malaise, angst and bleak outlook of his contemporaries. Most of the music written after the turn of the century was laden with heavy philosophical and/or psychological undercurrents, which lent even the most upbeat pieces an overall Weltschmerz feeling of disquiet.

This is yet another great 'live' recording featuring the Beethoven Orchester Bonn under the direction of Stefan Blunier which well projects the lush orchestral colors and multiple strands found in this type of symphonic writing. Good decision on the part of the MDG executives to include the rarely heard Festival Prelude by Richard Strauss as the opening work on this CD, as it clearly demonstrates how closely similar these two composers sound. Well, except for one major difference. A few minutes into the Schmidt and you immediately notice a "smile" within the music's fabric that was missing from the positive, powerful and upbeat Strauss. So if you're in the mood for some brilliant orchestral music, but not from composers constantly holding on to an umbrella, Franz Schmidt is an obvious first choice.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2017