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Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, January 2010

SCHMIDT, F.: Symphony No. 1 / Notre Dame, Act I: Introduction, Interlude and Carnival Music (Malmo Symphony, Sinaisky) 8.570828
SCHMIDT, F.: Symphony No. 2 / Fuga Solemnis (Malmo Symphony, Sinaisky) 8.570589

A big round of applause should also go to organist Anders Johnsson as well as the MSO brass and percussion sections for their stirring account of the Fuga Solemnis. We owe them and Naxos thanks for providing us with the only recording of this rarity currently available on disc.

The locations for all these recordings were in Malmö, Sweden. The symphonic selections were done in the concert hall, and the organ piece, St. Petri (St. Peter’s) Church. Both were ideal venues with just the right amount of reverberation to allow these opulent scores breathing space without any blurring. The Naxos engineers have taken full advantage of this, giving us impressive soundstages, an orchestral timbre that’s more musical than analytic…



Don O’Connor
American Record Guide, July 2009

Schmidt’s First Symphony is a mixture of styles by a talented youngster (he began it at the age of 22), clearly cut out to be a symphonist. The introduction to the first movement sounds like an 18th Century French overture, leading to an allegro theme plainly descended from Strauss’s Don Juan. The finale includes a solid Lutheran chorale and fugal passages by a composer who sounds as if he’d rather write counterpoint than eat, they’re so enthusiastically developed.

The center movements are more in the expected post-romantic vein, with some of those touching, elegiac melodies so valued by Schmidt admirers. The Notre Dame excerpts exhibit the more mature style of the composer, including his glorious vein of florid melody so reminiscent of Italian verismo at its best.

Vassily Sinaisky’s reading, though not inspired, is still good. He takes care with the phrasing and dynamics to avoid rhythmic monotony. If the orchestration in the introduction to the First Symphony seems thick, it’s simply the way the music is scored—every reading I’ve ever heard has the same result. The more transparent passages are handled with gracefulness and ease. At a budget price, this is a good choice for two off-beat, but entirely worthwhile works. For the benefit of armchair score readers, the symphony’s performance takes all the repeats.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, June 2009

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 youthful, testosterone filled, sap-rising symphony is in safe hands.



Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

The Malmö is led by Vassily Sinaisky in a fine performance of Franz Schmidt’s First Symphony (8.570828) and by Bjarte Engeset in a strong performance of Grieg’s complete music for Peer Gynt (8.570871–72, two discs).



Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, May 2009

This is a very fine performance and I can hardly wait for the same performers to give us the other symphonies—they should be well worth hearing.

The three excerpts from Schmidt’s early opera Notre Dame are full of good things, not least the Hungarian-influenced Intermezzo—Schmidt was born in Pressburg which, at that time, was in Hungary, of Hungarian and German descent—but quite what this piece is doing in this very French story is beyond me. It does make a good, separate, concert-piece, not least because it could have been written in Hollywood 25 years later!…Performances and recorded sound cannot be faulted and the notes by Adam Binks are well worth reading. Flawed music, perhaps, from a master who was soon to spread his wings and take compositional flight.




Victor Carr Jr
ClassicsToday.com, May 2009

That Franz Schmidt’s 1899 Symphony No. 1 met with greater success than Mahler’s contemporaneous Symphonies Nos. 1–3 seems surprising to us today, until we consider the conservative tastes of the Viennese in that era. Schmidt, though not necessarily a straitlaced “conservative” composer, did early on dutifully (perhaps too dutifully) follow the path laid by Wagner, as his magisterial first movement amply demonstrates. It’s similar in style and harmony to Wagner’s Meistersinger, but with less interesting tunes. The following Langsam movement also evokes Wagner through its not immediately apparent tonality and its rather languid atmosphere (as well as the beautiful writing for strings). But again the melodic material is not all that memorable.

The scherzo is best: it features a catchy tune with beguiling turns of melody and harmony that foreshadow the Schmidt of the Fourth symphony (particularly in the colorful and distinguished woodwind writing), his finest work in the genre. The finale returns to the prosaic, though it does boast an affirmative if seemingly obligatory chorale toward the conclusion.

Vassily Sinaisky shows real belief in and affection for the piece, and he leads a convincing performance with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. He’s certainly more involving than Neeme Järvi, who with his Detroit Symphony gives the impression he’s always in a hurry to get to the good parts.

There are good parts aplenty in the Notre Dame excerpts. Composed only five years after the symphony, Schmidt’s opera displays the composer’s keen dramatic instincts and developing orchestral mastery (the colorful Carnival Music is quite captivating). Again Sinaisky and the Malmö players deliver a first-rate performance, captured in excellent sound by Naxos. If you’re interested in early Schmidt, you’ll do quite well with this release.



Infodad.com, April 2009

The Malmö Symphony Orchestra under Vassily Sinaisky plays three excerpts from Act I of Notre Dame with intensity and depth on the new Naxos CD of Schmidt’s music. Notre Dame dates to 1904-6, three decades before Schmidt’s huge oratorio, Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, but already in this opera the composer is showing his mastery of large orchestral forces and his ability to produce telling effects—notably, in these excerpts, with the harp. This music ties clearly back to that of Wagner, but already displays signs of originality in structure. Schmidt’s first symphony (he wrote four) also ties back: written in 1899, it sounds more like a mid-19th-century work than like one written on the eve of a new century. It is nevertheless an impressive achievement, with fine writing for all sections of the orchestra, a generally upbeat mood, and a particularly interesting scherzo marked Schnell und leicht. Although the work breaks no new harmonic ground, it shows Schmidt’s early mastery of large forces—he was 25 when he wrote the symphony—and indicates that a release of Schmidt’s later symphonic works would be most welcome.



Blair Sanderson
Allmusic.com, April 2009

The engaging performance by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, brings across the warmth and radiance of Schmidt's rich scoring, and the light touch keeps the music charming and appealing, where a heavier approach might have made it sound silly, cloying, and pretentious. Followed with three colorful orchestral excerpts from Schmidt's opera Notre Dame, this disc is a pleasant introduction to Schmidt, but listeners should definitely seek out the later symphonies to gain a better appreciation of his worth.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

Franz Schmidt’s symphonic scores suffered the misfortune of arriving at the turn of the century when music was in a state of turmoil. Of Hungarian/German descent, he studied both cello and composition at the Vienna Conservatoire, and as an orchestral musician earned his living for many years. It was the First Symphony that brought him to Viennese attention as a composer at the age of twenty-eight. It was well received by the critics, though he was working in a style handed down from Brahms and Reger, and was soon looked upon as a person from yesteryear. The symphony, like much of his output, vanished from sight in the aftermath of upheaval caused by the Second Viennese School. Heard today we must regret that fact, the score’s first three movements being rich in thematic material, the slow second movement blessed with some of the most exquisite music of that period. Only its lack of a big finale presents a marginal weakness in securing long-term popularity. Heard in a superb account from the Malmö Symphony and their new Russian-born Principal Conductor, Vassily Sinaisky, its neglect becomes all the more strange. It is a nicely unhurried account, Sinaisky making the most of the triumphant coda to the finale. He obtains wonderfully crisp string articulation—go to the middle section of the finale for a perfect example, while the brass is nicely rounded. Three sections—the Introduction, Intermezzo and Carnival—from the successful 1914 opera, Notre Dame, make an animated and colourful conclusion, the Intermezzo belonging to the world of opera’s ‘pop’ classics. Sound quality comes from the top end of the premiere league. Please Naxos can we have some more Schmidt from this source?






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