Ole Schmidt

Ole Schmidt: Concertos

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In his native Denmark, composer Ole Schmidt has enjoyed renown for his music since 1954, when his first concerted work, his Piano Concerto, was widely heard on Danish radio. When this concerto was written, Schmidt was still a student, pumping piano in restaurants and for ladies' gymnastics classes, and several years more would elapse before Schmidt emerged as one of Denmark's most respected conductors. Schmidt's work as a conductor ultimately took center stage in his international career as he led the first complete recording of Carl Nielsen's symphonies in 1974 and has held guest conductor posts in places as wide ranging as Manchester, England, and Toledo, OH. However, this did not lead Schmidt to abandon composition; quite the contrary, as his first symphony of 1955 won him a publishing contract with the eminent Danish publishing house of Wilhelm Hansen.

A survey of Ole Schmidt's work as composer, the idea of combining a disc of Schmidt's concerted works, as DaCapo has done in Ole Schmidt: Concertos, is a good one, as most of Schmidt's works for orchestra outside of his symphonies involve a soloist. Although Danish sources frequently peg Schmidt as "combining neo-Classicism and jazz," there is very little jazz in the music here, although some allusions to big band stylings appear in the second movement of his 1966 Concerto for horn and chamber orchestra. Schmidt is neo-Classical only to a point -- one of the hallmarks of his style is extreme clarity of orchestration, consistently pared to the absolute bone in the manner of Stravinsky. This disc features four concerti, two for flute, one for horn, and one for tuba. The most dynamic of the four is the tuba concerto, which does manage to get the tuba off the floor and into the air a bit, although it does not entirely sidestep the tuba's occasionally flatulent tones; tuba players will be amazed by the triple tonguing in the last movement. The atmosphere in all four concerti is generally Bartókian, but not dense, and the early Suite for flute, string orchestra, harp and percussion is brighter and utilizes more quartal-sounding harmonies than the darker, later works.

While the music of Ole Schmidt may be an acquired taste, it never seems alien or overly aggressive; it has a strong rhythmic profile and skillful, generally attractive writing for the soloists. DaCapo's sound engineering on this super audio CD is amazing -- it is very clear, lifelike, and every instrument can be heard.

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