Vassily Sinaisky / Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 2; Fuga Solemnis

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On this 2009 Naxos release, Vassily Sinaisky and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra turn in an emotionally committed and sonically lustrous performance of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, to follow their recording of the Symphony No. 1 in E major earlier in the same year. With this luminous and surprisingly inventive work, composed between 1911 and 1913, Schmidt abandoned his youthful and imitative Romantic style, which had been heavily influenced by the music of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, and advanced toward the complex harmonies, unexpected modulations, fluid rhythms, and organic counterpoint of his maturity. Fans of lush post-Romantic music will find much to like in the Symphony No. 2, for Schmidt's rich, atmospheric style seems an agreeable blending of the sounds of Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler, with periodic forays into the colors and textures of Impressionism; yet all of this is unified through the integrity of an original artist. That Schmidt was a master is readily apparent in this symphony and in the elaborately constructed Fuga Solemnis for organ, brass, and percussion, which fills out the disc. In both works, the levels of his creativity are extraordinarily high and his expression is continually compelling. There is always some bold feature or novel combination to hold the attention and hardly, if ever, a cliché to distract. Naxos provides a warm and radiant reproduction for the symphony, though the change of venue from concert hall to church creates a noticeable difference in the recording of Fuga Solemnis, which is quite resonant, yet occasionally details are blurred.

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