Schmidt: Variations on a Hussar's Song; Fantasia for piano and orchestra in B flat major; Chaconne for orchestra in D minor

Reviewed on Fri 28 Oct, 2016

Variations of a Hussar’s Song and the Chaconne for Large Orchestra both date from 1931, late in Schmidt’s career. This is music of undemanding melodic appeal, and Schmidt’s clear but inventive use of variation form leads the ear.

Three large-scale works from Franz Schmidt here receive elegant and flowing, if slightly understated, performances. Variations of a Hussar’s Song and the Chaconne for Large Orchestra both date from 1931, late in Schmidt’s career. This is music of undemanding melodic appeal, and Schmidt’s clear but inventive use of variation form leads the ear. Alexander Rumpf makes both works flow naturally, never compromised by their sectional structure, and the playing from the Rheinland-Pfalz orchestra is precise and alert. The Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra, here receiving its premiere recording, is a much earlier work, from 1899, its music later reworked in the opera Notre Dame. Schmidt struggles to combine piano and orchestra, often simply alternating, although he brings them together successfully at the end. Pianist Jasminka Stančul easily handles this undemanding music, and without over emphasising its simplicity. An attractive album, although Schmidt’s conservative harmonic language, tonal without a trace of dissonance, tends towards blandness after an hour.
–Gavin Dixon