While Austrian composer Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 1 (he wrote four symphonies) belonged to an older musical tradition exemplified by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, his Symphony No. 2, dives headlong into the hyper-Romantic musical language of the early twentieth-century. This is the world of Anton Bruckner (one of Schmidt's teachers), Gustav Mahler, and, especially, Richard Strauss.
Filled with confidence and optimism, Symphony No. 2 was Schmidt's first composition in seven years, having just resigned from his cello position with the Vienna Philharmonic. The scoring is for a very large orchestra and is extremely demanding. Structurally unusual, the form consists of a prelude, a set of ten variations with a scherzo and trio, and a slow finale. The first movement, Lebhaft, is marked by Straussian bravura and a thickness of texture. The second movement, Allegretto con variazioni: Einfach und zart, starts with a lovely woodwind choir stating the simple theme that precedes ten exquisitely crafted variations. Chromaticism abounds as Strauss continues to be the point of reference, stylistically. The last movement, Finale: Langsam, begins in a resigned, reflective mood (alla Bruckner) until about four minutes from the end when the likeable swagger of Strauss returns. An amiable, thoroughly enjoyable piece, this work will appeal to any fans of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bruckner, Mahler, and Strauss.