Tuesday 14 November 2023

Celebrating Franz Schmidt: Jonathan Berman's recordings of the symphonies reach completion for the composer's 150th anniversary

Franz Schmidt
Franz Schmidt

The Austrian composer Franz Schmidt was born 150 years ago next year and in anticipation of the event, Jonathan Berman's Franz Schmidt project reaches completion with the boxed set of all four of Schmidt's symphonies being released digitally on Accentus on 17 November 2023 with Berman conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (the physical release is 1 December).

But it isn't just about the symphonies, Berman has been researching Schmidt for some years and his Franz Schmidt Project website presents the fruits of this research along with interviews with  Fabio Luisi, Wayne Marshall, Simone Young and Franz Welser-Möst about Schmidt's music. The website also has an upcoming performances page, though you will have to travel if you want to hear one of Schmidt's symphonies, no UK performance are listed.

Schmidt remains something of an unsung hero, his relatively conservative music is strongly in the Austro-Hungarian tradition. Born in what is now Bratislava (but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) his career was in Vienna as he combined composing, teaching and performing. His four symphonies (1899, 1913, 1928 and 1933) are the centrepiece of his output, but there are also two operas, Notre Dame (1904–6) and Fredigundis (1916–21), and his terrific oratorio The Book with Seven Seals (1935–37), a setting of passages from the Book of Revelation. With hindsight, this latter work seems prophetic, foretelling, in the most powerful terms, the disasters that were shortly to be visited upon Europe.

In 2014, Jonathan Berman became the first Englishman and first conductor to win the Kempinski Young Artist Programme Fellowship, which enabled him to work with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, and you can read about Berman's experiences on LinkedIn.

Full details from the Franz Schmidt Project website.

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