Franz SCHMIDT (1874-1939)
Symphony No.2 in E flat major (1911-13) [48:59]
Fuga Solemnis for organ, sixteen wind instruments and percussion (1937) [14:00]¹
Anders Johnsson (organ)¹
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky
rec. May-June 2007 (Symphony), Malmö Concert Hall; August 2007 (Fuga Solemnis) St. Petri Church, Malmö
NAXOS 8.570589 [63:09]
The second instalment of the Naxos Schmidt symphonic cycle is with us (Vol. 1 review). It preserves another impressive performance, this time of the E flat major Symphony. As before, the major competition comes from the Detroit Symphony and Järvi on Chandos CHAN9568 - a four disc collection.
The Symphony lasts around forty-eight or so minutes – in this performance – and is cast in three movements. Written between 1911 and 1913 it opens in genial fashion before some hefty Straussian brass calls puncture the amiable laissez faire. Schmidt is a minor master at alternation of brass fanfare and diaphanous gauzy textures; there’s even an Elgarian contour to his melodic way of thinking, a product of late-Romantic brio, surely, rather than anything else. Those Brucknerian caesuri are another strong influence. Pliant and neat, the second movement moves off into variational waters. These range from the lissom and fast to evocative, if ghostly, ballroom scenes. The baroque-leaning finale with its Bachian Fugue, solenelle style, has a grandly developing sense of space and drives onwards to a stirring and invincible chorale conclusion. The playing is splendid, and the interpretative decision-making vis-à-vis Järvi is a matter of individual taste. The latter has the more virtuosic orchestra but Sinaisky handles the thematic development of the symphony with equal authority.
The bonus, if one can call it that, is the 1937 Fuga Solemnis for organ, sixteen wind instruments and percussion. The organ begins its nobly reserved soliloquy whilst the orchestral forces are only allowed to enter with their stirring blocks of sound at around the mid-point of its 14 minute length. Again a stirring climax is ensured by Schmidt and whilst this one sounds a touch forced, its impact can’t be doubted.
Once again these forces prove to be fully conversant with Schmidt’s own personalised brand of late-romanticism, and its allied harmonic richness. The results are admirably bracing and sympathetic, and have been excellently recorded by the Naxos team.