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Ole SCHMIDT (b. 1928)
Suite for flute, string orchestra, harp and percussion, op. 21 (1960)
(I Rondino; II Walzer; III Intermezzo; IV Marsch)
Concerto for flute and string orchestra (1985)
(I Introduction; II Molto lento; III Presto)
Concerto for horn and chamber orchestra, op. 31 (1966)
(I Largo; II Allegro giusto)
Concerto for tuba and orchestra, op. 42 (1975)
(I;  II; III Allegro)
Jens Bjørn-Larsen (tuba)
Ulla Miilmann (flute)
David M.A.P. Palmqvist (horn)
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Ole Schmidt
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, 16-20 August 2004. DDD
DACAPO 6.220515 [68:50]


The virile recording quality secured by Chris Hazell is the first thing that hits you about this disc. But there’s more to it than that.

Ole Schmidt is best known as a conductor who has made far too few recordings. I had cause quite recently to recommend strongly his Sibelius and Borodin collections on Regis. His early 1970s recording of the six Nielsen symphonies made history and remains the most life-enhancing and vivid in the catalogue (Regis again).

Schmidt is a composer whose tutelage was served with Vagn Holmboe, Finn Høffding, Jörgen Jersild and Niels Viggo Bentzon. He was born in Copenhagen in 1928. After the war he became a jazz pianist and continued this career while studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. His conducting lessons were learnt at the hands of Albert Wolff, Kubelik and Celibidache.

His Piano Concerto of 1954 was broadcast on the radio and made an early success. At about the same time he wrote the score Bag Tæppet (Behind the Curtain) for the Royal Danish Ballet. In fact there are a number of ballet scores,. He also became music director of the company in 1957 an appointment that continued until 1965. His ballet experience is reflected in the airborne fantasy of the two flute concertos recorded here. The writing in both cases has the flightiness of the Nielsen concerto but without its wilder anarchic element. The Horn Concerto is in two movements. It shows Schmidt’s engagement with the ripeness of the romantic schools - in itself extraordinary for 1966 - but its accenting is contemporary. The golden cantilena at 1:52 in the Largo recalls Malcolm Arnold while the moderately gritty aspects link with the horn writing in Britten’s Serenade. The work also struggles with nightmare visions (4:33). The writing here is of a searing pressure. The Allegro giusto has a bold striding metropolitan confidence and street-wise heroism - at times redolent of Arnold. For sampling try the ticking, ear-tickling syncopation of 4:20 onwards in the Allegro giusto. This is a splendid display piece; all the stronger because it has no vapid moments. The Tuba Concerto is in three movements. It too reflects the romantic strain especially in the ruminative and singing second movement although one occasionally is aware of the ungainliness of the instrument. In the brief final allegro there are some extraordinary moments such as the rapid rolling sprouting figures for the soloist at 2:20.  It’s not as strong a piece as the Horn Concerto but it will repay repeat hearings.

The Horn Concerto is a remarkable odyssey of a work - surely one of the most masterful of the twentieth century’s concertos for the instrument - and stands out in this company for its sustained oxymoronic toughness and romance. The wonderfully provocative writing is deeply harnessed to romantic models but breathes a wholly contemporary ozone.

Rob Barnett


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