Vassily Sinaisky / Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 1; Notre Dame

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Even though Franz Schmidt's mature music often resembles that of his teacher Anton Bruckner, the Symphony No. 1 in E major is a youthful work that sounds more like the symphonies of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, at least in terms of melodic content, developmental procedures, tonal scheme, and orchestration. Yet at over 45 minutes, the size of this symphony certainly approaches the Brucknerian scale, and even though Schmidt hadn't fully absorbed his teacher's style -- that would be evident in the three symphonies to come -- he certainly understood the grandiose dimensions the symphonic form had acquired and naturally conformed to the expectations of his time. Thus, this post-Romantic piece seems far more ambitious than its modest material warrants, and some of the time sounds like a Romantic pastiche that goes on too long. Still, if that isn't a stumbling block for listeners, there are many passages of great beauty and originality that promise better things to come in Schmidt's output. The engaging performance by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, brings across the warmth and radiance of Schmidt's rich scoring, and the light touch keeps the music charming and appealing, where a heavier approach might have made it sound silly, cloying, and pretentious. Followed with three colorful orchestral excerpts from Schmidt's opera Notre Dame, this disc is a pleasant introduction to Schmidt, but listeners should definitely seek out the later symphonies to gain a better appreciation of his worth.

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