While much of his work is deeply rooted in the late nineteenth-century style, Austrian composer Franz Schmidt started to look ahead with his Symphony No. 4. It is the most "modern" of his four symphonies, from its inspired, tonally ambiguous trumpet solo in the beginning to its through-composed one-movement form.
The Symphony No. 4 is regarded by many to have been a requiem, of sorts, to Schmidt's daughter who died at birth. There is a somber, probing, somewhat desperate nature not found in the previous three symphonies. The opening solo trumpet melody of the Allegro molto moderato serves as thematic glue throughout the symphony. Without a break, the Adagio begins and ends with an achingly beautiful cello solo (Schmidt had been a cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic) that metamorphoses into a highly dramatic "funeral dirge" in the middle. The Molto vivace is developmental in nature with fugal entrances hinting at Richard Strauss, and ends with a gigantic chromatic descent into oblivion. The last movement, Tempo primo un poco sostenuto, begins with the opening trumpet theme now played by the French horn (darker, more melancholy and resigned). Almost exclusively based on the beginning theme, the final section is a tour de force of melodic manipulation. A regrettably overlooked composer, Franz Schmidt will bring great pleasure to fans of Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, and Erich Korngold.