Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Presto Personal Favourites from 2020

Presto Classical
James Longstaffe

Franz Schmidt Complete Symphonies (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi; Deutsche Grammophon)

Ah, Franz Schmidt, where have you been all my life? I must admit that before I got stuck in to this set of his complete symphonies, I was unfamiliar with the output of this late-Romantic/early twentieth-century Austro-Hungarian composer. While Symphony No. 1 (written when Schmidt was 22) is fairly conservative, and clearly heavily influenced by composers such as Brahms and Weber, the latter two symphonies in particular are more adventurous, with echoes of Mahler, Strauss, Schoenberg, and others.

They are all richly orchestrated, littered with gorgeous melodies (not least the exquisite cello solo in the Fourth Symphony's slow movement), and containing several unexpected harmonic twists and turns. I have no doubt that this ravishing, sumptuously-performed set from Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra will do much to turn many more people on to Schmidt's music, and I'm thrilled to have made this new discovery!


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