LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  August 2008

CLASSICAL August 2008

Subject:

Schmidt's Book

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 25 Aug 2008 15:17:25 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (85 lines)

Franz Schmidt
Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln.

Johannes Chum (tenor, St. John), Robert Holl (bass-baritone, Voice of the
Lord), Sandra Trattnigg (soprano), Michelle Breedt (mezzo), Nikolai Schukoff
(tenor), Manfred Hemm (bass),
Wiener Singverein, Tonkuenstler-Orchester Niederoesterreich/Kristjan Jaervi.
Chandos CHSA5061(2)  Total time: 112:59

Summary for the Busy Executive: Great piece, okay performance.

History has not been kind to Franz Schmidt.  In many ways, he was the
quintessential Viennese composer of his day, which coincided with Bruckner,
Mahler, Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, and Korngold.  He won all sorts of
prizes from the music-loving Viennese, and deserved every one of them.
While not as groundbreaking as the above composers and essentially
conservative, you can't really call him hidebound.  While he disliked
Mahler's music (he called the symphonies "cheap novels"), he interested
himself in Schoenberg to the point of getting up a performance of Pierrot
lunaire, and his music shows strong similarities to Mahler anyway.

The central works of Schmidt's output comprise his four symphonies and
this oratorio.  All of these scores sum up a separate period of Schmidt's
artistic development.  He begins as a follower of Bruckner (although far
more concise) and progressively moves toward freer dissonance, without
ever reaching atonality.  Das Buch to me constitutes his greatest work,
one of the great choral masterpieces, although it has yet to catch on
as a bona-fide hit.

For one thing, it's difficult as sin.  It boasts several complex fugues
for chorus, and the orchestral writing sometimes tops Strauss in its
contrapuntal virtuosity.  Quite expensive to perform, it calls for huge
forces, including six soloists and an organ.  Franz Welser-Moest, who
conducted the work more than once and recorded it as well, had to postpone
the premiere with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus by a year.  Like
the Mahler Eighth, however, it justifies its cost.

Schmidt began the work in 1935 and wrote it thinking he had little time
left to live (he died in 1939).  He intended it as a spiritual and musical
testament and poured a lifetime of serious, solid composition into it.
Based on the Book of Revelations, it represents a change in direction
from his previous style of Schoenbergian expanded Gurrelieder tonality.
Indeed, in certain sections -- like the war in heaven, for example --
he crosses over from the Late Romantic - Early Modern twilight into
full-fledged Modernism.

The work opens with a blaze of brass, as the apostle John (Schmidt
specifies a Heldentenor) announces his vision, followed by the voice of
God (a bass) proclaiming himself the Alpha and Omega.  The four beasts
appear, and the Lamb, and we arrive at the opening of the seven seals,
the heart of the oratorio.  The opening of the second seal brings the
rider on the red horse and the Apocalypse.  Schmidt rises to the musical
challenge with visionary, dramatic music, especially when he describes
the bleak aftermath.  At this point, he departs from Revelations to
depict a starving mother and daughter as well as two survivors who barely
recognize one another as human.  From the opening of the seventh seal,
the oratorio begins to brighten.  The old dragon is defeated, and God's
judgment, harsh on sinners (and everyone else), is praised as righteous.
The work ends on a series of grandiloquent hallelujahs -- rhetorically,
the weakest part for me -- and then, surprisingly, an a cappella chant
from the men's choir.  John finishes the work by, in effect, signing his
book.

Schmidt pays great attention to fashioning a dramatic trajectory, both
through the libretto and through the music itself, but it's a huge,
nearly two-hour span.  It takes a great conductor not only to keep
individual sections clear, but to make the entire work cohere.  I have
heard three recordings: Mitropoulos on Sony, Welser-Moest on EMI, and
now Jaervi.  I haven't heard Harnoncourt (well-reviewed) or Horst Stein
(one enthusiastic review on Amazon).  Mitropoulos gives a fiery reading,
but in glorious mono from the Fifties.  The sonics don't measure up to
the piece.  Jaervi, on the other hand, has by far the best sound of the
three, but it's a flat reading that fails to move anywhere.  Welser-Moest,
hampered occasionally by boxy sound at the big climaxes, nevertheless
delivers overall the best performance by far of the three.  Jaervi almost
manages to make the work dull, although Chandos's engineering thrills
all by itself.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager