Schmidt: Symphony No. 4; Strauss: Symphonic Fragment (Josephs-Legende)Mahler: Symphony No.2/ Schmidt: Symphony No.4
With this wonderful recording, Sinaisky's series of the Franz Schmidt symphonies comes to an end. To me, this is easily the finest recording of this work in both sound and interpretation. While the pure sonics on the Jarvi recordings are superior, this series with the Malmo Symphony comes close, and is a triumph of Naxos technicians. This symphony is the closest to being Mahlerian in influence, and one coming to this work for the first time will clearly hear passages that are reminiscent of that master. Since Mahler, who encouraged the young composer at the beginning of his career, felt Schmidt was a rival, having won prizes and praise from their contemporaries, this tribute seems misplaced. The work was a memorial to Schmidt's daughter, who died giving birth. Although tragic, the work has an almost hopeful denouement. My first recording of this symphony was the Mehta, which appeared on Decca. Though still a fine recording, the running time is nearly 50 minutes (but I would not consider the length an oppressive detriment). Jarvi's Fourth comes in at just over 42 minutes and Sinaisky is in the middle at about 46 ½ minutes. What distinguishes Sinaisky from the others is his sense of flow. Rather than approaching the symphony as a funeral march, the relentless drumming reminds one of a beating heart. The Adagio movement is deeply affecting, still Sinaisky does not unduly linger on the intense emotionality. This recording is accompanied by a first-rate performance of the "Variations of a Hussar's Song," which has a startlingly dissonant opening. Had not Schmidt's life ended relatively young due to his overindulgence of alcohol, he would have been a formidable (and better known) 20th Century composer. Ideally, I hope that Sinaisky will record the left-handed piano concerto and the Beethoven variations. But this series is well worth obtaining, and is very inexpensive to boot.