Magazine article Gramophone

Schmidt * R Strauss: Schmidt Symphony No 2

Magazine article Gramophone

Schmidt * R Strauss: Schmidt Symphony No 2

Article excerpt

Schmidt * R Strauss

Schmidt Symphony No 2 R Strauss Intermezzo--Traumerei am Kamin Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Semyon Bychkov

Sony Classical (F) 88985 35552-2 (55' * DDD)

Semyon Bychkov and the Vienna Philharmonic brought Franz Schmidt's Second Symphony to the BBC Proms in September 2015, only a matter of days after making this recording in Vienna's Musikverein. It's as apparent here as much as it was in that concert the amount of affection with which both orchestra and conductor approach the work. And the recording suggests that even the Musikverein itself, sounding cushioned and clear, is holding the piece in a warm embrace--perhaps rather a little too warm in Sony's smooth engineering.

The booklet reminds us of Schmidt's many roles in Viennese musical life of the first half of the 20th century (including as a cellist in the opera house orchestra under Mahler), and of the fact that his status as a pillar of the musical establishment there perhaps amplified some critical views from beyond the Austrian capital. The damaging assessment of him as having been big on craftsmanship but rather short on inspiration, for example, has stuck.

And initially the Second Symphony of 1913 might seem to back it up. It's an essentially sunny and pastoral work of shifting, beautifully dappled colours. There are disparate hints of Strauss, Reger, Bruckner and others, as well a couple of passages that look forward to the intense string-writing of Schmidt's famous Intermezzo from Notre Dame, composed the following year. …

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