Monday, March 14, 2011

Schmidt again - his fourth symphony

The fourth was, for many years, the only Schmidt symphony to stay in the repertoire, and that largely because of the Viennese, who have kept his reputation alive. The symphony is a long, reflective work which begins with a melancholy trumpet call that will not resolve onto the tonic – C – until the last bar of the whole work. Schmidt played the trumpet (though he was a cellist by profession before turning to composition full time) and used to take his trumpet on hill walks for the pleasure of playing it in the open air. And, of course, his other instrument - the cello - features in the slow movement.

Schmidt's later life was not happy. His wife developed serious mental illness, and you cannot hear this work without thinking of a man reflecting on youth in the adversity of old age.

The fact that the work is in C should tell you a lot too. But if the musical language is conservative, the work is, I think, a masterpiece in its own way. A personal utterance that nevertheless works as an aesthetic whole.

Here is Fabio Luisi (pictured testing to see if his baton is al dente as he requested) conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Sound is very decent at 192 kbs, mp3.

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