Schmidt;Symphony No. 2 in E インポート
Schmidt (1874-1939) is an interesting musical figure in that he is a curious bridge from the 19th century to the 20th in Austro-Hungarian (or Czechoslovakian) music. After Mahler's death in 1911, Schmidt was considered to be Vienna's leading composer (even though Schoenberg lived nearby). Schmidt's music is ornately Romantic and has about it a fin de siecle ambience, a sense of the old aristocratic orders languishing in their twilight years. The Symphony 2 (of 1913) does not have a hint of the Great War to come. It's written in the grand manner of Strauss, but with a touch of Bruckner for structure. --Paul Cook
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Schmidt's fourth symphony is acknowledged as his masterpiece in symphonic form so of course the ever enterprising Neeme Jarvi decided to do the whole cycle. But even the resources of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can only lift up Schmidt's music so much on this release. Having heard the first symphony and been bored by just how derivative and uneventful it was, I was glad to at least have my interest vindicated by a far more ambitious symphonic structure on Schmidt's second go round in the form.
The big brass sound will undoubtedly remind one of Strauss but that's about it. The movements go on far too long and have a tendency to meander as is typical when dealing with a composer not from the first rank. Jarvi leads the Chicago musicians in a bouncy and flamboyant affair. I suppose this is probably first choice for this repertoire just as Zubin Mehta is the primary choice for the fourth symphony. The recording was made live in concert and Chandos provides rich, full sonics... so if you want to explore some middle of the road Late Romanticism, here's a good CD to do just that. For me, a couple of listens was enough.
Mr Fogel had a long and turbulent association with the Schmidt 2nd. In the 1960's, as executive director of the Syracuse Symphony, he had worked for the better part of the decade to record the work with the orchestra's music director, Karl Kritz. By 1969, all agreed that the players were ready to tackle the work in performance AND record it for ABC/Westminster Records. After the final rehearsal, Maestro Kritz had begun to feel ill; he conducted the Friday night performance but, tragically, passed away before the 2nd and final performance. The recording project was scrapped.
Again we fast forward to Mr Fogel's tenure with the Chicago Symphony. Sometime during the late 80's, he had convinced Erich Leinsdorf to conduct the work with the CSO but, for reasons which have escaped me, the performances of the Schmidt 2nd--which had been officially announced in the CSO's season materials--were cancelled.
But Henry Fogel, clearly a man on a mission, then convinced Neeme Jarvi to conduct and record the work for Deutsche Grammophone in April of 1989. Everything was now in place for the great event...well, ALMOST everything (and this is where I stumbled into the picture). When I found out about the plan to record the Schmidt in concert, I called Henry Fogel and left my name and the reason for the call; I still recall his first words when he called back: "And how is the only other person in Chicago who has ever heard of the Schmidt 2nd Symphony?" And even though the enthusiasm was running high, there was trouble a-brewin': the CSO was $20K short in terms of financing for the project, and Henry was forced to cancel the deal with DGG. All appeared lost until....to make a long story short...the $ was procurred from a private philanthropic foundation in Chicago, and Henry was able, at the very last minute, to make arrangements with Chandos to come in and record the live performances, using the expert services of the CSO's own in-house engineer, Mitchell Heller. I was there for the rehearsal and concerts (the program consisted of the Corigliano "Pied Piper" Fantasy w/Galway on the first half and the Schmidt after intermission), and the orchestra had a great time discovering and playing the heck out of this most challenging, neglected but JOYOUS work!
My only complaint about the recording is the fact that, in the final mastering, the overall volume level is WAY too low; you really have to crank it up to begin to appreciate the true glory of this great occasion. But in the end, Mr. Fogel's perseverance and belief in this wonderful symphony paid off. And now that you know "the rest of the story"..make sure and acquire the small piece of musical history that is encapsulated in this CD!
Neem Jarvi enhances and faced the hiuge challenge to carve in relief the virtues of his music. The Chicago Symphony proves the heavy wieght consistence of his powerful sound but at the end you may find it a music without transcendence. The similar impression you feel with Grieg, Medtner or the Symphonic Scriabin, for instance.
Nevertheless the level of the performance justifies and rewards its buying.