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Schmidt: Symphony no 3; Hindemith / Jarvi, Chicago SO

Release Date: 10/28/1992 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 9000   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz SchmidtPaul Hindemith
Performer:  Samuel MagadBruce GraingerRay Still
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A German and an Austrian expressing community with their cultural heritage. Hindemith's 1925 back-to-the-baroque concerto is a defiantly anti-romantic, short, sharp shocker. Schmidt didn't take any notice: his symphony, completed three years later, harks back nostalgically to the previous century with all those lovely 'bad habits' of the late romantics. Ostensibly written 'in the spirit of Schubert', it is a Schubert distantly glimpsed through a haze of harmonic complexity. Schmidt's only concession to early nineteenth-century procedures was the use (for him) of a surprisingly modest orchestra. One that, paradoxically, is probably smaller than Hindemith's.

Ohne Pathos is the order on page 1 of Hindemith's Concerto for
Read more Orchestra. Not that the concertino of oboe, bassoon and violin have much chance of emoting in the first movement. The Chicago violinist has to grapple with a never ending run of semiquavers and stets lebendig ("stay alive"—another instruction on page I) so he deserves our sympathy, but must be relieved the engineers didn't opt for closer focus on the concertino. Hindemith makes the whole string section scurry frantically in the second movement (from 1'35", two before 110) sempre fff, immer sehr wild. Suffice it to say that at this point in the composer's 1950s DG recording (12/58—nla) the Berlin Philharmonic fiddles showed similar signs of strain. A grotesque march for woodwind ensues, with a haunting middle section where flutes glide over a hypnotically repeated dotted figure on clarinets; a passage of the utmost simplicity, sad and yet seraphic. And everyone has the chance to show off in the 'Basso ostinato' finale, a sort of fairground passacaglia with no less than 47 statements of the ground in two minutes 23 seconds. Other engineers would have been tempted to move in, but this is a live recording and Chandos have preserved the concert-hall experience. In fact the sound reminded me of a topnotch Proms relay.

Schmidt's symphony is as apparently effusive as Hindemith's Concerto is terse. Brahms and Bruckner (and Richard Strauss, in this performance) are recalled more than Schubert, and, of course, Bach—the orchestral blend and slow moving bass lines often seem imagined from the organ loft. There are passages where protracted treatment of not overly inspired melodic material (though its smiling, soaring opening theme is surely God-given) are saved by unexpected shifts of key and harmonic 'moments', but what wonderful moments they are, and once under the spell of the rich harmonies, you will probably forgive him anything.

Järvi's is the finest recording to have appeared to date. The current catalogue lists two alternative versions: Libor Pegek (Supraphon) and Ludovic Rajter (Opus) both with orchestras from Bratislava, but the former is hampered by wooden, two-dimensional sound, and the latter by slow tempos and limp rhythms in the Scherzo and finale (and neither of them offers any coupling). Järvi's initial tempo for the slow movement is controversially fast—more of an andante than an adagio—and after 0'35" he moves even faster. There seems to be a conscious effort with change of pace to mark out the movement's variation form, and the fast overall tempo allows the music to breathe. Rubato is characteristically generous and, as ever, superbly controlled.

The Chicago orchestra are on good form (forgivably fallible strings in the Hindemith apart) and there's no audience intrusion. A rewarding coupling.

-- Gramophone [3/1992]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 in A major by Franz Schmidt
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1927-1928; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1991 
Venue:  Live  Orchestra Hall, Chicago 
Length: 42 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38 by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Samuel Magad (Violin), Bruce Grainger (Bassoon), Ray Still (Oboe)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1991 
Venue:  Live  Orchestra Hall, Chicago 
Length: 12 Minutes 37 Secs. 

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