A guide to composer Franz Schmidt

We look into the life of the composer, cellist and pianist ahead of tonight's Prom

Composer Franz Schmidt

Born in 1874 in Pozsony (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Franz Schmidt was a musical prodigy, first learning the piano. He became a virtuoso cellist, performing extensively with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and many chamber ensembles, and a respected conductor.


It is his compositions, though, that have earned Schmidt his place in musical history – even if it's only in recent years that his music is being heard in concert halls again. The Austrian composer destroyed many of his early works, but went on to become a symphonist of some stature – his four symphonies were written in 1899, 1913, 1928 and 1933. He also composed two operas, Notre Dame and Fredigundis, and the oratorio Book of the Seven Seals.

As a composer, he was greatly admired by the Nazi authorities, and was commissioned to write a cantata titled ‘The German Resurrection’, which, following the collapse of Nazism marked him out as a Nazi sympathiser.  

Schmidt died at the age of 64, in 1939. His first wife Karoline had been confined to a mental hospital in Vienna, and was consequently murdered in 1942 as part of the Nazi’s euthanasia operation. Their first child Emma also died unexpectedly after the birth of her own first child.

What's on at the Proms tonight?

Prom 66: Saturday 1 September, 7.30pm

Dukas La péri – Fanfare and Poème dansé
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3
Schmidt Symphony No. 4

Yuja Wang (piano)
Berlin Philharmonic/Kirill Petrenko


The Prom will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3