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Schmidt: Concertante Variationen, Etc / Grante, Luisi, Et Al

Release Date: 01/08/2013 
Label:  Querstand   Catalog #: 611   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Franz Schmidt
Performer:  Carlo Grante
Conductor:  Fabio Luisi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Middle German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHMIDT Concertante Variations on a Theme of Beethoven for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra. Concerto for Piano Left Hand in E? Carlo Grante (pn); Fabio Luisi, cond; Middle German RSO QUERSTAND 611 (78:59)

Although no other work commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein has achieved the fame of Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, a number of the other works are well worth hearing. Franz Schmidt may have written more for the pianist who lost his arm in the First Read more World War than any other composer—both of these works, three piano quintets, and a solo toccata.

It is surprising that no one has coupled these two works before, and the combination plus the superb performances makes this an easy recommendation. The Beethoven Variations are based on the Scherzo movement of Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata, and Schmidt treats the theme with humor, power, and a great range of expression. Listeners familiar with Schmidt’s style will find a few surprises here (the bolero-like variation certainly wasn’t something I expected to find), but also will recognize Schmidt’s unique sound world, with its swirling chromatic passages and rich harmonies.

In this day and age, with all of the small labels issuing material around the world, I would never risk saying that this is the first recording of Schmidt’s Piano Concerto written for Wittgenstein. But I have loved Schmidt’s music for 40 years and been collecting it and I haven’t encountered it before. It is a relatively late work, composed in 1934 just about five years before the composer’s death, and is contemporary with his greatest symphony, the Fourth. It is a very strong work, darker in overall tone than the Variations . The work was premiered in 1934 with the Vienna Philharmonic, Schmidt (their former principal cellist) conducting, and Wittgenstein performing. The other work on the concert was that Fourth Symphony. I would have loved to have been there!

If you are not familiar with Franz Schmidt’s music, it is worth getting to know as long as you like the late-Romantic style. If you respond to Strauss, Bruckner, or Sibelius, it is hard to imagine Schmidt’s music not striking a chord in you. This disc would make a good introduction—though the Fourth Symphony is probably his single masterpiece.

There is no competition on disc for the Concerto, and I find this performance of the Variations stronger than the one on Preiser played by Doris Adam and conducted by Alfred Eschwé. Grante plays with a lovely variety of color, and Luisi has clearly developed a strong feeling for Schmidt’s idiom, as his earlier set of the four symphonies showed. The program notes are instructive, but badly translated and hard to plow through. The recorded sound is extremely good—just the right combination of clarity and warmth. The disc is very generously filled. Very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano left hand in E flat major by Franz Schmidt
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Conductor:  Fabio Luisi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Middle German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Austria 
Length: 47 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Variations for Piano left hand and Orchestra on a theme of Beethoven by Franz Schmidt
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Conductor:  Fabio Luisi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Middle German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Austria 
Length: 30 Minutes 25 Secs. 

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