Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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FRANZ SCHMIDT Symphony No. 4 (1933) 45.10
ANTON BRUCKNER Three Orchestral Movements (1862); March in D minor (1862) 14.00   Bruckner Orchestra Linz / Martin Sieghart recorded Bruckner Hall, Linz, Austria, Feb 1996 CHESKY CD143 [58.51]

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This is one of the many gems in Chesky's bejewelled catalogue. Much of the Chesky classical material is mainstream but in outstanding performances (they have the US monopoly on the Readers' Digest analogue tapes featuring Reiner, Barbirolli, Horenstein and Earl Wild) however this disc offers a new approach - obscure repertoire in high quality performance from a performer source not generally recognised as prestige.

The disc was issued a couple of years ago but has, to the best of my knowledge, never been reviewed in Gramophone. It remains largely unknown and it deserves very much better. The reviewing policy of Gramophone and a few other magazines remains a matter of enigmatic speculation.

While, in some measure, the present Chesky disc has been overtaken by the slightly more recent Welser-Möst (EMI) which generously couples Schmidt's Hussar Song Variations (remember when that could only be obtained on Hans Bauer's EMI LP?) there is an authenticity of feeling and a seamless sense of dialogue and flow in this poetic performance.

The work first surfaced on LP in the early 1970s when Decca issued Zubin Mehta's still estimable VPO recording. Since then there has been the EMI recording mentioned above and Ljudovit Rajter's recording for Opus.

The work itself is an example of Schmidt's late mastery complete with Brucknerian pauses. Here you hear it with superfine string playing illuminating the intriguingly curdled tonality of Schmidt's writing. The music is a step onwards from say Mahler 5 or 7. Doom-laden cathedrals of sound arise in confident glory (note the passage at 13.12 in the first track). The second track suggests a funereal procession with at least one eruptive moment reaching out towards the twin climax in Elgar's Symphony No. 2. The third track's molto vivace has a hint of the macabre and the woodwind imitate the familiar curve and droop of the opening trumpet solo. The final segment of score (bear in mind that the work is in a single three quarter hour movement) resounds to a horn call close to that of Britten's in his Serenade. The theme is a dream in which sadness and embracing comfort meet and meld. The work closes in this atmosphere of powerful elegy but not before a passage in which the tolling brass parallel a similar episode in Korngold's Symphony.

In this company the Bruckner novelties register pleasantly but hardly at all. Still it is good to have them.

Warmly recommended as an alternative choice to the Welser-Möst. Definitely a version to hear and one which, in terms of performance values, breathes an unparalleled sincerity.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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