Schmidt: Symphony No. 2 - Strauss: Festliches Praeludium, Op. 61
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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, Import, 18 August 2017
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- Product Dimensions : 14.2 x 12.4 x 1.19 cm; 98.09 Grams
- Manufacturer : MDG-LIVE
- Original Release Date : 2017
- Label : MDG-LIVE
- ASIN : B071NT9356
- Number of discs : 1
- Customer Reviews:
Franz Schmidt was ''the most musical man in Vienna'' - this is what Gustav Mahler had to say about his fellow composer, who, unlike him, is almost completely forgotten today. Stefan Blunier has rediscovered this late-romantic master and now with the mighty forces of the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn presents Schmidt's Symphony No. 2 together with Richard Strauss's Festival Prelude composed during the same year for the opening of Vienna's Konzerthaus. Schmidt played in a string quartet with Arnold Schonberg, but the tonal idioms of the two composers could not have been more different. While Schonberg very early bade farewell to major-minor harmony and later turned to twelve-tone music, Schmidt remained true to tonality until the end of his life. After the Austrian Anschluss this commitment brought him dubious distinctions from the Nazis - which of course did not help him after the fall of the ''Thousand-Year Reich.'' Schmidt calls for a gigantic orchestra for his second symphony. However, sheer volume is a concern only in a few passages. He instead emphasizes kaleidoscopic color shifts produced in what is often an instrumentation reminiscent of chamber music. Behind it all there is a masterfully composed texture with overlapping themes and variations resulting in a cyclical work structure with a systematic logic.
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Although the second symphony as played here is generally well done by Stefan Blunier leading the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn, the SACD recording is miked too distantly from the players to adequately reveal much of the bucolic instrumental detail, and Blunier's pacing also unfortunately emphasizes the occasional plodding nature of the second movement variations. (Neeme Järvi for example, in his performance with the Chicago Symphony, on Chandos is almost 2 minutes faster.) Indeed, overall Järvi's quicker pacing throughout helps the entire work.
BUT - call me perverse if you like - I have to recommend this disc none-the-less - for the sensational performance of Richard Strauss' Festival Prelude. Long one of my favorite concert curtain raisers, this is one of the greatest demo pieces ever written, and maybe predictably, here the SACD engineers do themselves proud. Blunier and the Beethoven Orchestra could be giving Ludwig the ultimate Lazarus wake-up call to return to the living. WOW! Together with the organ accompaniment, they play the lights out of this rousing piece. Forget the opening of "Also Sprach Zarathutra," although rarely performed this Prelude is maybe Strauss' finest bravura showpiece for brass, organ. and orchestra.