Franz Schmidt  
Franz Schmidt

Franz Schmidt
Franz Schmidt (22 December 1874 – 11 February 1939) was an Austrian composer, cellist and pianist.


Schmidt was born in Pozsony (known in German as Pressburg), in the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (the city is now Bratislava, capital of Slovakia). His father was half Hungarian and his mother entirely Hungarian. He was a Roman Catholic.

His earliest teacher was his mother, Mária Ravasz, an accomplished pianist, who gave him a systematic instruction in the keyboard works of J. S. Bach. He received a thorough foundation in theory from Brother Felizian Moczik, the outstanding organist at the Franciscan church in Pressburg. He studied piano briefly with Theodor Leschetizky, with whom he clashed. He moved to Vienna with his family in 1888, and studied at the Vienna Conservatory (composition with Robert Fuchs, cello with Ferdinand Hellmesberger and theory (the counterpoint class) with Anton Bruckner), graduating "with excellence" in 1896.

He beat 13 other applicants and obtained a post as cellist with the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra, where he played until 1914, often under Gustav Mahler. Mahler habitually had Schmidt play all the cello solos, even though Friedrich Buxbaum was the principal cellist. Schmidt was also in demand as a chamber musician. Schmidt and Arnold Schoenberg maintained cordial relations despite their vast differences in style. Also a brilliant pianist, in 1914 Schmidt took up a professorship in piano at the Vienna Conservatory, which had been recently renamed Imperial Academy of Music and the Performing Arts. (Apparently, when asked who the greatest living pianist was, Leopold Godowsky replied, "The other one is Franz Schmidt.") In 1925 he became Director of the Academy, and from 1927 to 1931 its Rector.

As teacher of piano, cello and counterpoint and composition at the Academy, Schmidt trained numerous musicians, conductors and composers who later achieved fame. Among his best-known students were the pianist Friedrich Wührer and Alfred Rosé (son of Arnold Rosé, the legendary founder of the Rosé Quartet, Konzertmeister of the Vienna Philharmonic and brother-in-law of Gustav Mahler). Among the composers were Theodor Berger, Marcel Rubin and Alfred Uhl. He received many tokens of the high esteem in which he was held, notably the Franz-Josef Order, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Vienna.

Schmidt's private life was in stark contrast to the success of his distinguished professional career, and was overshadowed by tragedy. His first wife was, from 1919, confined in the Vienna mental hospital Am Steinhof, and three years after his death was murdered under the Nazi euthanasia program. His daughter Emma died unexpectedly after the birth of her first child. Schmidt experienced a spiritual and physical breakdown after this, but achieved an artistic revival and resolution in his Fourth Symphony of 1933 (which he inscribed as "Requiem for my Daughter") and, especially, in his oratorio The Book With Seven Seals. His second marriage, to a successful young piano student, for the first time brought some desperately needed stability into the private life of the artist, who was plagued by many serious health problems.

Schmidt's worsening health forced his retirement from the Academy in early 1937. In the last year of his life Austria was brought into the German Reich by the Anschluss, and Schmidt was fêted by the Nazi authorities as the greatest living composer of the so-called Ostmark. He was given a commission to write a cantata entitled "The German Resurrection", which, after 1945, was taken by many as a reason to brand him as having been tainted by Nazi sympathy. However, Schmidt left this composition unfinished, and in the summer and autumn of 1938, a few months before his death, set it aside to devote himself to two other commissioned works for the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein, for whom he had often composed: the Clarinet Quintet in A major and the solo Toccata in D minor. Schmidt died on 11 February 1939.

Musical works
As a composer, Schmidt was slow to develop, but his reputation, at least in Austria, saw a steady growth from the late 1890s until his death in 1939. In his music, Schmidt continued to develop the Viennese classic-romantic traditions he inherited from Schubert, Brahms and his own master, Bruckner. He also takes forward the exotic ‘gypsy’ style of Liszt and Brahms. His works are monumental in form and firmly tonal in language, though quite often innovative in their designs and clearly open to some of the new developments in musical syntax initiated by Mahler and Schoenberg. Although Schmidt did not write a lot of chamber music, what he did write, in the opinion of such critics as Wilhelm Altmann, was important and of high quality. Although Schmidt's organ works may resemble others of the era in terms of length, complexity, and difficulty, they are forward-looking in being conceived for the smaller, clearer, classical-style instruments of the Orgelbewegung, which he advocated. Schmidt worked mainly in large forms, including four symphonies (1899, 1913, 1928 and 1933) and two operas: Notre Dame (1904-6) and Fredigundis (1916–21). A CD recording of Notre Dame has been available for many years, starring Dame Gwyneth Jones and James King.

No really adequate recording has been made of Schmidt's second and last opera Fredigundis, of which there has been but one "unauthorized" release in the early 1980s on the Voce label of an Austrian Radio broadcast of a 1979 Vienna performance under the direction of Ernst Märzendorfer. Aside from numerous "royal fanfares" (Fredigundis held the French throne in the sixth century) the score contains some fine examples of Schmidt's later style. New Grove encyclopaedia states that Fredigundis was a critical and popular failure, which may be partly attributable to the fact that Fredigundis (Fredegund, the widow of Chilperic I), is presented as a murderous and sadistic feminine monster. Add to this some structural problems with the libretto, and the opera's failure to make headway - despite an admirable and impressive score - becomes comprehensible.

The Book with Seven Seals
Schmidt's crowning achievement was the oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (1935–37), a setting of passages from the Book of Revelation. His choice of subject was prophetic: with hindsight the work appears to foretell, in the most powerful terms, the disasters that were shortly to be visited upon Europe in the Second World War. Here his invention rises to a sustained pitch of genius. A narrative upon the text of the oratorio was provided by the composer.

Schmidt's oratorio stands in the Austro-German tradition stretching back to the time of J. S. Bach and Handel. He was the first to write an oratorio fully on the subject of the Book of Revelation (as opposed to a Last Judgement in a Requiem like that of Giuseppe Verdi). Far from glorifying its subject, it is a mystical contemplation, a horrified warning, and a prayer for salvation. The premiere was held in Vienna on 15 June 1938, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Oswald Kabasta: the soloists were Rudolf Gerlach (John), Erika Rokyta, Enid Szantho, Anton Dermota, Josef von Manowarda and with Franz Schütz at the organ.

Schmidt is generally, if erroneously, regarded as a conservative composer (such labels rest upon yet-to-be-resolved aesthetic/stylistic arguments), but the rhythmic subtlety and harmonic complexity of much of his music belie this. His music is modern without being modernist, combining a reverence for the great Austro-German lineage of composers with very personal innovations in harmony and orchestration (showing an awareness of the output of composers such as Debussy and Ravel, whose piano music he greatly admired, along with a knowledge of more recent composers in his own German-speaking realm, such as Schoenberg, Berg, Hindemith, etc.). The considerable technical accomplishment of his music ought to compel respect, but he seems to have fallen between two stools: his works are too complex for the conservatively minded, yet too obviously traditional for the avant-garde (they are also notoriously difficult to perform). Since the 1970s his music has enjoyed a modest revival which looks set to continue as it is rediscovered and re-evaluated.

Symphony No. 1 in E major.
Written in 1896 at age 22. The scherzo of this precociously accomplished symphony (which shows a mature absorption of Bruckner and Richard Strauss) is especially noteworthy, while Schmidt demonstrates his contrapuntal skills in the Finale.
Symphony No. 2 in E flat major.

Written in 1913 in a style reminiscent of Strauss and Reger, with homage to the grandiosity of Bruckner. This is Schmidt's longest symphony and it employs a huge orchestra. The central movement (of three) is a highly ingenious set of variations, which are grouped to suggest the characters of slow movement and scherzo. The complex scoring of this magnificent symphony renders it a considerable challenge for most orchestras.
Symphony No. 3 in A major.

A sunny, melodic work in the Schubert vein (although its lyricism and superb orchestration do much to conceal the fact that it is one of the composer's most harmonically advanced works). Winner of the Austrian section of the 1928 International Columbia Graphophone Competition, it enjoyed some popularity at the time (1928).
Symphony No. 4 in C major.

Written in 1933, this is the best-known work of his entire oeuvre. The composer called it "A requiem for my daughter". It begins with a long 23-bar melody on an unaccompanied solo trumpet (which returns at the symphony's close, "transfigured" by all that has intervened). The Adagio is an immense ABA ternary structure. The first A is an expansive threnody on solo cello (Schmidt's own instrument) whose seamless lyricism predates Strauss's Metamorphosen by more than a decade (its theme is later adjusted to form the scherzo of the symphony); the B section is an equally expansive funeral march (deliberately referencing Beethoven's Eroica in its texture) whose dramatic climax is marked by an orchestral crescendo culminating in a gong and cymbal crash (again, a clear allusion to similar climaxes in the later symphonies of Bruckner, and followed by what Harold Truscott has brilliantly described as a "reverse climax", leading back to a repeat of the A section).

Schmidt and Nazism

Schmidt's premiere of Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln was made much of by the Nazis (who had annexed Austria shortly before in the Anschluss), and Schmidt was seen (according to a report by Georg Tintner, who revered Schmidt and intended to record his symphonies until prevented by his own death) to give the Nazi salute. His conductor Oswald Kabasta was apparently an enthusiastic Nazi who, being prohibited from conducting in 1946 during de-nazification, committed suicide. These facts long placed Schmidt's posthumous reputation under a cloud. His lifelong friend and colleague Oskar Adler, who fled the Nazis in 1938, wrote afterwards that Schmidt was never a Nazi and never antisemitic but was extremely naïve about politics. Hans Keller gave similar endorsement. Regarding Schmidt's political naivety, Michael Steinberg, in his magisterial book, The Symphony, tells of Schmidt's recommending Variations on a Hebrew Theme by his student Israel Brandmann to a musical group associated with the proto-Nazi German National Party. Most of Schmidt's principal musical friends were Jews, and they benefited from his generosity.

Schmidt's last work, the cantata German Resurrection, was composed to a Nazi text. As one of the most famous living Austrian composers, Schmidt was well-known to Hitler and received this commission after the Anschluss. He left it unfinished, to be completed later by Robert Wagner. Already seriously ill, Schmidt worked instead on other compositions such as a piano quintet. His failure to complete the cantata is likely to be a further indication that he was not committed to the Nazi cause; such, at any rate, was the opinion of his friend Oskar Adler.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Franz Schmidt - Symphony No.1 in E-major (1899)
Symphony No.1 in E-major (1899) scored for Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes (English Horn), 2 Clarinets, 3 Bassoons (3rd also Contrabassoon), 4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Strings.

Mov.I: Sehr langsam - Sehr lebhaft 00:00
Mov.II: Langsam 11:40
Mov.III: Schnell und leicht 23:09
Mov.IV: Lebhaft, doch nicht zu schnell 34:44

Orchestra: Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Vassily Sinaisky

Written in 1896 at age 22. The scherzo of this precociously accomplished symphony (which shows a mature absorption of Bruckner and Richard Strauss) is especially noteworthy, while Schmidt demonstrates his contrapuntal skills in the Finale

Schmidt - Symphony n°2 - Vienna - Leinsdorf
Symphony n°2

I. Lebhaft
II. Allegretto con variazioni
III. Finale

Wiener Philharmoniker
Erich Leinsdorf
Live recording, Vienna, 29.X.1983

Franz Schmidt - Symphony No.3 in A-major (1928)
Symphony No.3 in A-major (1928) scored for flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and a large string section.

Mov.I: Allegro molto moderato 00:00
Mov.II: Adagio 16:00
Mov.III: Scherzo: Allegro vivace - Molto più tranquillo 26:28
Mov.IV: Lento - Allegro vivace 37:55

Orchestra: Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Vassily Sinaisky

Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 4 in C major (Mehta, Wiener Philharmoniker)
Allegro molto moderato • 15:54 Adagio • 30:50 Molto vivace • 46:18 Tempo primo un poco sostenuto
Franz Schmidt, Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra.
Jasminka Stancul (piano) - Vienna Symphony Orchestra - Leon Fleisher.
Franz Schmidt - Piano Concerto in E-flat major for the left hand (1934)
Piano Concerto in E-flat major for the left hand (1934)

Mov.I: Allegro moderato un poco maestoso 00:00
Mov.II: Andante 18:43
Mov.III: Vivace 32:41

Pianist: Karl -Andreas Kolly

Orchestra: Wiener Jeunesse Orchester

Conductor: Herbert Böck

Franz Schmidt - Piano Quintet No.2 in B-flat major (1932)
Piano Quintet No.2 in B-flat major (1932) (for the left hand)

Mov.I: Andante tranquillo 00:00
Mov.II: Lento - Allegro vivace 12:45
Mov.III: Allegro ma non troppo 28:22

Piano: Rainer Keuschnig
Clarinet: Ernst Ottensamer
Violin: Josef Hell
Viola: Peter Pecha
Violoncello: Leonhard Wallisch

Franz Schmidt "Intermezzo" Notre Dame
Intermezzo zur Oper "Notre Dame"
von Franz Schmidt
Sinfonieorchester Budapest
Dirigent: Michael Halász
Franz Schmidt - Notre Dame
James King
Horst R. Laubenthal

RSO Berlin - Christof Perick

F. Schmidt Notre Dame Sawallisch   Wiener Philharmoniker
Franz Schmidt: Variationen und Fuge über ein eigenes Thema (Königsfanfaren aus Fredegundis)
Variationen und Fuge über ein eigenes Thema (Königsfanfaren aus Fredigundis)
Tina Christiansen, organ
Live recording from a concert in Middelfart Church, Denmark, August 2008
Organ: Th. Frobenius & Co. 1962
Schmidt Fuga Solemnis
For Organ, 6 trumpets, 6 horns, 3 trombones, bass tuba, kettle drums, and tam-tam.
Played by: Anders Johnsson; Vassily Sinaisky: Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - 1st organ interlude
Franz Schmidt´s oratorio "The book with seven seals"
- first organ interlude

The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert at their concert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - first seal
Franz Schmidt´s oratorio "The book with seven seals"
- Opening of the first seal
The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.

And I saw the Lamb opened the first seal and I heard as it were a noise of thunder:

Come! Come! Come!

A white horse! And he who sat on him had a bow and a crown was given to him. And he went forth conquering and to conquer. And in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

The Lord! The King of Kings! The Lord of Lords!
His name is called: 'The word of God.'
The word of God!
His name also is: 'Faithful and true!'
And his eyes were as a flame of fire and upon his head were many crowns. He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood. And he shall rule the nations with a rod of iron. And he will tread the wine press of fierceness and wrath of God Almighty.
The King of Kings! The Lord of Lords!
As victor goes he forth to conquer in the name of the Lord!

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - Zweites Siegel
Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (1936)
- Öffnung des zweiten Siegels

Monteverdichor Würzburg
Mainphilharmonie Würzburg
Matthias Beckert

21. Februar 2010
Neubaukirche Würzburg

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - fifth seal
Franz Schmidt´s oratorio "The book of seven seals"
- Opening of the fifth seal
The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert at their concert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.

And when the lamb had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they spake:
How long, Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?
How long, Lord, dost Thou not judge?

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - Sechstes Siegel
Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (1936)
- Öffnung des sechsten Siegels

Monteverdichor Würzburg
Mainphilharmonie Würzburg
Matthias Beckert

21. Februar 2010
Neubaukirche Würzburg

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - seven trumpets fugue
Franz Schmidt´s oratorio "The book of seven seals"
- The seven trumpets fugue
The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert at their concert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.
For more information please visit
http://www.Monteverdi-Choir.com (german)

(fifth trumpet sounds)
Hear! Hear!
The fifth trumpet sounds! The fifth angel sounds! The fifth sorrow!
The sound of the trumpet proclaims the judgement of God the Lord.
The trumpet proclaims God's punishment for all the sins of the world.
Behold, the blazing star which fell on the earth has opened up a bottomless pit.
And from the pit there rose black smoke and in the smoke were swarms of locusts without number that plagued men like scorpions!
Now men seek only death and find it not!

(sixth trumpet sounds)
Hear ye! Hear ye! The sixth angel sounds! Judgement of God!
The judgement of the Lord! God's wrath destroyes you! For ye all follow evil! Ah, woe!
The angel that watch by the river Euphrates were loosed and set forth with a million horsemen to kill you all and destroy you.
The horsemen led by the four angels by the river Euphrates are loosed to kill you and all peoples and destroy all life.
The day of wrath has come, ye sinful men!
There is no time for repentance, there shall be time no longer.
When the seventh angel raises his voice and sounds the trumpet, God's great secret shall be revealed as He declared to His prophets as glad tidings!
As the glad tidings have promised!

(seventh trumpet sounds)
Now are the Kingdoms of the world become the Kingdom of the Lord!
He shall reign for ever and ever!
The Lord shall rule the world and His dominion is for ever and ever.
The Lord God shall reign over all the world.
His power shall last for ever.
His reign is everywhere.
God has assumed power over all the Kingdoms of the world.
God's own commandments stand for ever!
Sing His praise! Praise Him!
Praise the Lord! Sing His praises!
Sing His praise and extol the Lord God!

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - water fugue
The famous "water fugue" of Franz Schmidt`s oratario "Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln" (The book with seven seals), premiered on June 15, 1938 in Vienna. The whole oratorio tells the story of the biblical "Book of Revelation" and the water fugue in particular pictures the horrified people fleeing from the big flood after the sixth seal was broken. The quadruple fugue (four main themes) is considered as one of the most expressive (and difficult) pieces in oratorio literature.
The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert at their concert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.

(first theme:)
The ocean swells and rises higher and ever higher and higher still! Flee into the mountains!
(second theme:)
Oh what ghastly darkness! The sun has risen, yet there is no light.
(third theme:)
For lo, the sun is black as sackcloth, like a sinner's garment.
(fouth theme:)
Vanished are the heavens, they are no more.

Away! Flee! Hurry! Oh terror! Horror!

The day of wrath is come, the wrath of the Lord of Lords and of the Lamb!
Ye mountains, fall upon us! And hide, ah, hide us from the face of the Lord of Lords.
For the day of His wrath has come and who shall be able to stand?

Franz Schmidt: Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln - HALLELUJA
The final part of Franz Schmidt´s oratorio "The book with seven seals"
- Halleluja
- Choir of the wise men
- Epilog

The live recording shows the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg with its conductor Matthias Beckert at their concert in the Neubaukirche of Würzburg, Germany on July 20, 2007.
For more information please visit
http://www.Monteverdi-Choir.com (german)

The Voice of the Lord:
And he that shall overcometh shall inherit all things
and I will be his god
and he shall be my son.

Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Give ye thanks unto the lord!
His grace and mercy last for ever!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Blessed are they that walk in the path of righteousness!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Lord, Lord deliver them that have held to Thy commandments!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Praise ye the Lord! Worship Him and thank Him for His mercy!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
For His mercy and wisdom illumine all men!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
God reigns on high over all mankind and every nation!
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Praise the Lord, ye angels, and worship His name!
Sing Halleluiah! Sing ye Halleluiah!
Give praise and thanks to God the Lord and sing his praises!
Sing Halleluiah!

Choir of the wise men:
We thank Thee, O Lord, almighty God, which is and which was,
that Thou hast taken unto Thee dominion and reignest.
The peoples were grown impatient, then came thy judgement and the day of judging the dead and rewarding Thy servants, the prophets and the saints and all them that hold Thy name in honour, the small and the mighty.
But also destroy them by whom earth has been defiled.

St. John:
I am John, he who saw and heard all these things and revealed it to you.
Harken to my words! They are true and to be trusted.
For God, God the ruler of spirits showed unto His servant, showed the prophet, all which soon must come to pass.
And truly blessed is he that shall understand the words, the words of the prophet!
Keep ye my prophecy! And the grace of God, the Lord, be with you all!

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