Symphonies Nos 1-4; Notre Dame – Intermezzo
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
DG 483 8336 180:32 mins (2 discs)
Is Franz Schmidt finally securing due recognition as the last great Austrian symphonist of the late-Romantic era? The enthusiastic reception accorded to two of his symphonies at the BBC Proms over recent years certainly suggests so. I have no doubt too that his music will win over many new admirers thanks to this beautifully played and luxuriantly recorded cycle of concert performances given in Frankfurt between 2013 and 2018.
Paavo Järvi is an almost ideal interpreter of this composer, not only managing to bring transparency and luminosity to Schmidt’s often thickly textured orchestration, but also keeping a tight rein on the structural direction of works that in lesser hands can seem to meander. The youthful First Symphony receives an exuberant performance in which Schumann rather than Wagner emerges as the most potent influence. Järvi is no less impressive in the Second Symphony, exerting formidable control over the tricky babbling brook passagework in the opening movement and giving the music a dynamic sense of forward momentum and febrile excitement that is not so evident in other recordings.
In the more emotionally elusive Third Symphony, Järvi emphasises the lyrical and pastoral qualities in the outer movements but also brings a deep sense of foreboding to the darkly chromatic Adagio. Best of all is his deeply committed account of the Fourth. Thanks to the sustained almost grief-stricken intensity of the playing, not least the distinguished solo contributions from the trumpet, cor anglais and cello, it proves to be a gripping musical experience from first bar to last.