Austrians know that Franz Schmidt's Fourth is a great symphony, possibly the last great symphony, a work that is the culmination of the Austrian symphonic heritage stretching from Haydn through Mahler, a work that is the culmination of the Romantic musical tradition from Weber to Wagner, a work in which all the unbearable grief and unremitting pain of loss and mourning are given shape and voice.
Even Austrians in the provincial capital of Linz know that Schmidt's Fourth is a great symphony and this disc by Martin Sieghart leading the Bruckner Orchester Linz is the proof. While Sieghart may or may not be a great conductor, in this recording at least, he is incontrovertibly a great conductor, binding together the enormous four movements in one structure and making every gesture count. But better than that, he makes every line sing and every harmony sound, granting the work the integrity of form and substance that is its due. And while the Bruckner Orchester Linz may or may not be a great ensemble, in this recording at least, it is indubitably a great ensemble, performing with a cohesion and passion that make mere professionalism seem superficial. Together, Sieghart and the orchestra create the best recording of Schmidt's Fourth since Mehta. The four early Bruckner orchestra movements that fill out the disc will be of great interest to Bruckner fanatics but of little interest to anybody else. Chesky's sound is crisp, clean, and clear, but it lacks warmth.