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Franz Schmidt: Symphony No 4, Variations On A Hussar's Song / Sinaisky, Malmo Symphony

Franz Schmidt: Symphony No 4, Variations On A Hussar's Song / Sinaisky, Malmo Symphony

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Franz Schmidt was an inconsistent composer, and his Variations on a Hussar's Song is an odd work. The best thing about it is the song; the variations are nothing special. It's a jolly, diatonic tune that Schmidt decorates with increasingly ugly chromatic doodads as the music proceeds. A note in the score makes a special point of the fact that the composer uses no divisi strings at any point, as if this matters. Still, this is a good performance; it may be that the first trumpet fails to assert himself ideally, and the percussion is a touch recessed, but the work's 28 minutes pass pleasantly enough.

The symphony, on the other hand, is a masterpiece, and it has been well treated on disc. Mehta's Vienna Philharmonic recording remains the benchmark, and if you want modern sound, Kreizberg's (PentaTone) also is quite good. So is this one. To be sure, the Malmö strings haven't the weight and richness of the Vienna Philharmonic, but the performance is very well paced and the Naxos engineers see to it that textures remain clean and clear (the harp is particularly well caught). Given the fact that the Variations constitute a genuine rarity, and you may well enjoy that work more than I did, this release is certainly recommendable as a supplement to the Mehta recording of the symphony.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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