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Henry Fogel
Fanfare, January 2011

I put Vassily Sinaisky’s Naxos recording of Schmidt’s Second Symphony on last year’s Want List, and if I don’t do the same for the Third this year, it is because I don’t believe this work is quite as strong. Sinaisky, however, makes an extremely persuasive case for it.

Franz Schmidt (1874–1939) is more truly than Mahler the end of the Austro-German symphonic tradition that began with Haydn. Although Schmidt’s four symphonies do not have the enormous individuality and musical personality of Mahler’s, they are rich, beautiful works that deserve far more exposure than they receive outside of Austria (where they have always held a place in the repertoire). They are fiendishly difficult to play and to conduct. The problems that they present to the conductor are many and are quite specific. Balances must be carefully attended to, because the scoring is often thick and anything but a judicious ear will find the thematic material buried. They demand both a long, lyrical line and incisive rhythms. Shortchange the former, and the tunes don’t hold their shape. Shortchange the latter, and the music sags.

Sinaisky gets it all. He clearly loves the music, and he seems remarkably inside the music for someone who doesn’t come from that Viennese tradition. There is a fair amount of repetition in this work, and unless you vary material when it reappears, the listener’s mind will wander. There is no chance of that here. Everything—dynamic gradation, phrase-shaping, building of tension followed by release—it is all perfectly judged. The two strongest Schmidt symphonies are Nos. 2 and 4. They both have a wealth of melodic invention that stays long in the memory after you’ve heard them. The Fourth is, in my view, a true masterpiece—a tragic work written as a requiem for the composer’s daughter. The First is the weakest: quite derivative of Strauss, and lacking any strong profile of its own. The Third may not be quite at the level of Nos. 2 and 4, but the fervor and cohesion of this performance serves to raise its stature in the Schmidt canon.

The disc is filled out very nicely by Schmidt’s own orchestration of an organ chaconne that he wrote, and I think this is the orchestral version’s first recording. It is a big work—almost half an hour—and it is colorful and thrilling. Good notes, splendid sound, and committed playing at a high level by the Malmö forces round out this enthusiastically recommended disc.

Don O’Connor
American Record Guide, November 2010

Naxos’s sound is good, and Sinaisky adds another solid installment to what’s shaping up to be an excellent Schmidt cycle.

To read complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, November 2010

Sinaisky’s Schmidt cycle tackles two of the composer’s more elusive scores

The Third [8.572119] is the subtlest of Franz Schmidt’s four symphonies, outwardly genial and relaxed but beneath the surface teeming with contrapuntal intricacy and compositional finesse. Composed in 1927–28, it won the Austrian section of the Columbia Graphophone Company’s Schubert Centennial Competition (ultimately won by Atterberg’s Sixth) and is a large-scale, four-movement symphony imbued with the Classical tradition. Perhaps in tribute to Schubert, Schmidt—nothing if not a fine melodist—emphasised the lyrical even more than usual to produce a work of beguiling late-Romanticism.

As with the Second [8.570589], the benchmark for No 3 was established by Neeme Järvi and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, although Fabio Luisi has subsequently provided stiff competition. Sinaisky and the Malmö Symphony prove once more how much they are on Schmidt’s wavelength and taken in isolation this is a fine account, well played and nicely paced. Comparisons with Järvi are revealing, however, the Chicago SO’s playing having greater polish (as one might expect) and a huge difference in duration: 42′10″ for Järvi, 50′07″ for Sinaisky. Both approaches work well and if the Russian’s tempi at times risk losing impetus, as in the Adagio and the Scherzo’s Trio section, they remain well calculated in his overall conception.

The filler on what is a very well filled disc is the mighty Chaconne in D minor, originally penned for organ two years before the symphony and orchestrated in 1931. Luisi has no filler, Järvi—curiously—Hindemith’s Orchestral Concerto. Sinaisky’s handling of the great opening (13-minute) paragraph is mightily impressive and, as with the symphony, the orchestral delivery is a delight. Recommended.

Scott Noriega
Fanfare, November 2010

The Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Vassily Sinaisky...bring a grand sweep and lyricism to Schmidt’s Third Symphony, which was originally entered in the Columbia Graphophone Company of New York’s competition for the best symphony in the spirit of Schubert’s “Unfinished” (Atterberg’s Sixth took the grand prize, though Schmidt won the Austrian prize). The Chaconne that is included steals the show for me, though. Lasting almost a half hour, this is hardly filler material. The momentum of the piece and Schmidt’s orchestration are brought to the fore by these forces.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, September 2010

Schmidt’s 3rd Symphony is easy-going, full of good tunes and without any of the emotional weight of its predecessor. It’s a straightforward, four movement, work, with the slow movement placed second. As with his previous recordings of Schmidt’s 1st and 2nd Symphonies Sinaisky gives a solid and basic performance...[In the] Chaconne...each repeat of the chaconne figure and its figuration, are given the space to breathe and grow.

This recording is excellent, and captures the big orchestra of the Chaconne perfectly.

Mark J. Estren
The Washington Post, August 2010

Symphony No. 3 has some appealing lyricism and a well-constructed second movement in variation form, in which Schmidt excelled...Schmidt did an expert job of assembling well-wrought, complex works..., August 2010

Franz Schmidt (1874–1939) is...a highly skilled craftsman and a knowledgeable orchestrator...His works are very well put together...grand Romantic scale...The Chaconne is a monumental and fascinating work that Schmidt wrote for organ in 1925, in C-sharp minor. In 1931, he transposed it to D minor and orchestrated it—for very large forces, including (among other instruments) bass tuba, three timpani and three tamtams in different registers. A chaconne is essentially a set of variations, and the variation form is one in which Schmidt excels. This work is quite extraordinary both in length (close to half an hour) and formal inventiveness, from the original display of the theme in the cellos through a set of four sections based on the Aeolian, Lydian, Dorian and Ionian modes. A compositional tour de force, Schmidt’s Chaconne is a formal, elegant work that calls on the audience’s intellect more than its emotions—and for that reason is exceptionally successful on its own terms. The Malmö Symphony Orchestra...plays the work deftly, with Vassily Sinaisky highlighting its many fine instrumental touches.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, August 2010

Schmidt’s Third Symphony sounds vaguely Schubertian in its lyrical melodies, without imitating the man’s music in any overt way...The Scherzo seems closest to Schubert’s delightful verve, yet even here there is an underlying melancholy to the movement. It exudes the flavor of a bouncy, upbeat country dance...The final movement, an Allegro vivace...displays Schmidt’s greatest invention. It begins slowly, taking its time introducing its subject, and then segues into a sprightly middle section that Sinaisky moves forward at an appropriately steady yet invigorating pace. I’d say the conductor and orchestra inject about as much life into the work as it can sustain without its being jostled out of shape...I rather enjoyed Schmidt’s Chaconne in D minor. The composer wrote the work for solo organ in 1925, orchestrated it in 1931, and premiered it with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1933. It is a lovely, often delicate, often powerful piece of music, with pastoral overtones alternately giving way to marchlike segments. Here, Sinaisky is at his best, maintaining a vigorous, pleasant rhythm and creating an engaging atmosphere., August 2010

A short but very pleasant report on the Franz Schmidt (1874–1939) front. Before the musical world fell apart, this is how music could still sound in Vienna, even after the First World War. I have raved over the first two releases in the Naxos traversal of Schmidt’s four symphonies. Now we have a radiant No. 3 from 1927-1928, with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra, under Vassily Sinaisky (8.572119). Like its two predecessors, the Third benefits from a top-notch recording and Siniasky’s ability to show all the strands in this very rich, sumptuous music. The pace is slow but the concentration and commitment of the conductor and players carry the day in this extended variation treatment of a very beautiful theme.

Blair Sanderson, August 2010

Franz Schmidt’s four symphonies are among his most accessible compositions and perhaps the most immediately appealing and ingratiating is the Symphony No. 3 in A major, a lush and lyrical work that enfolds the listener with its warm orchestration, entices with its piquant harmonies and unexpected key changes and reveals many fascinating ideas as its development unfolds. If this work is comparable to any other music of its time, it bears a strong resemblance to the symphonies of Carl Nielsen, for its soaring melodies, searching modulations, and studious counterpoint are at times quite close to his style; despite the Austrian roots of Schmidt’s music (most evident in the Ländler-like Scherzo), the odd mix of yearning post-Romanticism and knowing modernism produces similar kinds of unstable moods and changeable expressions that can also be found in Nielsen. The modally based Chaconne in D minor, a more conventional and conservative piece than the symphony, is a reworking of Schmidt’s earlier Chaconne in C sharp minor for organ, transposed up a half-step and transcribed for orchestra. Vassily Sinaisky and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra turn in solid performances that bring the music across clearly and accurately...Naxos’ sound is clean and every note is fully audible.

Mark Pappenheim
BBC Music Magazine, August 2010

[The 3rd Symphony] here receives a performance of surely prize-winning vitality from Vassily Sinaisky and his Swedish orchestra as part of their ongoing and consistently impressive cycle of Schmidt symphonies.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2010

Composed in a style already considered outdated in the new Contemporary era, Franz Schmidt completed his Third, and least known, symphony in 1928. Always a favourite of mine, just turn to the haunting quality of the second movement, and had it carried the name of Mahler, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece. Its harmonic language is unusual and does show he was not oblivious to the events taking place in the Second Viennese School. Born in 1874 in the city we now know as Bratislava, it was the First Symphony that brought him to Viennese attention at the age of twenty-eight, but it was another eleven years before the Second was completed. By that time he had added another rich layer of sumptuous romanticism. Then the Third was conceived in the period 1927-28 and was dedicated to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The quirky humour in the scherzo is unusual for the serious Schmidt, the slow tread of the opening Lento leading to a finale of muscular strength ending in triumph. The Chaconne was first written as an organ work in 1925, but later orchestrated for a full symphony orchestra, its quiet opening showing a continual growth through variations of various dynamics that come to a massive conclusion. The performances of the Malmo Symphony Orchestra under Vassily Sinaisky is growing to be seen as the definitive Schmidt symphony edition, the powerful strings and warm rounded tone of the brass ideal for the composer. Sound engineering is superb.

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