Schmidt: Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln

Reviewed on Fri 19 Feb, 2016

Simone Young brings drive and drama enough to match the inner searching that Schmidt’s music conveys, aided by committed playing and generally fine singing from soloists and massed choirs alike.

Franz Schmidt and his oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, setting a text from the Book of Revelation, have long been overshadowed by associations with the Nazi regime. This perhaps explains why the work is better served on disc than by widespread public performances, though this latest Oehms release captures Simone Young’s live farewell concerts as head of the Hamburg Philharmonic in June 2015. Young brings drive and drama enough to match the inner searching that Schmidt’s music conveys, aided by committed playing and generally fine singing from soloists and massed choirs alike. Oehms’s Achilles heel, though, is the balance of the recorded sound, which lacks aural consistency, making this set a frustrating and confused listening experience. Preferable alternatives come from Mitropoulos (Sony), Harnoncourt (Teldec), Kristjan Järvi (Chandos) and, best of all, Franz Welser-Möst (Warner/EMI), who revels in Schmidt’s heady late Romanticism and has a more authoritative set of soloists to boot. Introductory notes in English and sung text, but no translations.
–Evan Dickerson