Schmidt: Symphony No 2 in E flat major; Strauss: Symphonic Interlude from Intermezzo ('Träumerei am Kamin')

Reviewed on Thu 06 Jul, 2017

Composed in 1913 and scored for huge orchestra, it's a three-movement edifice on the grandest scale, capped by a noble finale that gathers up the threads to notably convincing effect here.

Set down at the start of July 2015 in the Grosser Saal of Vienna's Musikverein just a few days before a memorable London performance at the Proms, Semyon Bychkov's unhurried and supremely affectionate reading with the VPO of the headily voluptuous Second Symphony by Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) is most welcome. Composed in 1913 and scored for huge orchestra, it's a three-movement edifice on the grandest scale, capped by a noble finale that gathers up the threads to notably convincing effect here. In the symphony's extended theme and variations/scherzo and trio centrepiece, however, it's Neeme Järvi and the Chicago Symphony on Chandos who extract rather greater passion and torque from the gypsy-flavoured eighth variation with its irresistible pre-echoes of the glorious Intermezzo from Schmidt's own 1914 opera Notre Dame. The recording, too, is just a little diffuse to be ideal (I'd have preferred greater bite from the horns in particular). Still, anyone who fancies a genuine late-Romantic splurge needn't hold back. Richard Strauss's raptly songful symphonic interlude ('Dreaming by the Fireside') from his 1924 opera Intermezzo makes a toothsome fill-up. Any niggles aside, his enterprising issue deserves every success.
–Andrew Achenbach