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76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
Symphony No.1 in E (1896/1899) [45:31]
Orchestral excerpts from the opera Notre Dame, op.2 (1904):
Introduction, Interlude and Carnival Music [15:21]
Symphony Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky
rec. 22-23 (Notre Dame), 27-30 (Symphony) August 2007, Malmö
NAXOS 8.570828 [61:02]
I assume we're shaping up to a budget price Schmidt symphony
cycle to try to rival the long established Järvi set on Chandos
CHAN9568 (4). If so this makes for a fine start. Why go for
broke with the Fourth when you can work up to it slowly, through
the chronological ranks as it were.
The First was written when the composer was in his early twenties.
Confidence; that's the word that best sums up what we can
hear coursing throughout it. And if some of the influences are
probably too obvious for words it doesn't negate the sheer
compositional craft, the sure orchestrational effect that Schmidt
wrought with this work completed almost as a new century dawned.
It really is a striking achievement, albeit one that remains limited
by an ultimate lack of sheer memorability and consistency.
Still, try the opening if you suspect a mini-me Brucknerian effusion.
What you get instead is a straight-in-there vitality, a verveful,
young man about town swagger. True, ears attuned to the altogether
different kind of swagger enshrined in Mastersingers and Tannhäuser
will find what they seek; there's no question Schmidt poached
some ceremonial Wagneriana along the way. But again, there's
felicitous wind detail and a very effective slow movement to contend
with - one that is assuredly moving strongly in Bruckner's
orbit, with the horn harmonies espousing the creed of Late Romanticism
at every tautening and tensing of the lip.
Schmidt was also good at proportion. This is a very proportionate
symphony, very democratically apportioned. The Scherzo takes as
much time as the slow movement and its elegance is matched by
balletic strengths; I like the quasi-diaphanous string sound cultivated
by Sinaisky here. For the finale we have rather more Wagnerian
admixture but also a somewhat old hat contrapuntal and fugal section
that attests to that old bugbear, the symphonic finale problem.
Fortunately Schmidt's fugal interpolations manage to remain
playful and not academic. Still, much better is the emergent chorale
that ends the work in a paean of nobility. Someone should have
red-lined the fugal pretensions for Schmidt, and insisted he majored
on the Chorale and the finale would have been that much stronger.
The three excerpts from his Op.2 opera Notre Dame complete
the brew. The Introduction is a charmer, whilst the Interlude
is a light goulash confection and the Carnival breezy but just
a bit too cosmopolitan for its own good. This coupling is in fact
the same as that on Marco Polo 8.223119 where Halász and
the Budapest Symphony blew hotter and colder in the Symphony than
this more sensitively delineated newcomer. The Detroit Chandos
performance is a truly fine one, more sumptuously recorded than
this Naxos. There are other performances including those in out-of-the-way
sets. I'm an admirer of the tremendous, late Slovak conductor
(and composer) Ľudovít Rajter's cycle in general,
and the conductor in particular, though the Bratislava Radio (Opus
9350 1851-4) is no match sonically for the Järvi or this
But for a budget single recommendation, no concerns at all with
this one. This youthful, testosterone filled, sap-rising symphony
is in safe hands.
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