Franz Welser-Möst / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Franz Schmidt: Symphonie No. 4; Variationen über ein Husarenlied

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Not half bad, but only half good, Franz Welser-Möst's recording of the Symphony No. 4 and the Hussar Variations of Franz Schmidt with the London Philharmonic is better than expected, but not as good as it could be. At its worst, Welser-Möst's Fourth is too fast, too light, and too maladroit -- the opening section's tempo should be Allegro molto moderato, not Welser-Möst's Allegro con brio; the Scherzo should collapse into chaos, not dither away into Welser-Möst's emptiness; and the closing section's close should echo in the void and not simply fade out into Welser-Möst's echo chamber. At its best, Welser-Möst's Fourth is deeply moving -- the central slow section of the work is a threnody of terrible grief and Welser-Möst's threnody has the intensity of the most terrible grief. And throughout the Hussar Variations, Welser-Möst delivers what may be the most structurally cogent and emotionally convincing performance of the work ever recorded. The London Philharmonic plays with more than enough power, if not quite enough precision. EMI's sound is a bit dry but clear and deep. While there are better recordings of Schmidt's Fourth in the world than Welser-Möst's, his Hussar Variations are well worth hearing by any fan of very late German Romantic music.

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