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Thread: Neglected German and Austrian orchestral composers and works of the late romantic era

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    Default Neglected German and Austrian orchestral composers and works of the late romantic era

    Neglected late romantic German and Austrian orchestral music and composers

    As a new member, I see a lot of interest in this area on TalkClassical and hope this thread will help us connect and discuss, specifically: music, recordings, composers. "Late romantic" is intentionally flexible here, as is "neglected." On this Forum, I recently started the thread Franz Schmidt Symphony No. 2 beautifully recorded by Semyon Bychkov/Vienna Philharmonic, and through doing that learned there are several recordings of Schmidt's excellent symphonies, though live performances and general awareness are still lacking. Here's a question:

    What is distinctive about Schmidt's orchestral music (all of it or any work or movement)?

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    Senior Member chill782002's Avatar
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    I've never heard of Franz Schmidt, will have to check out some of his work. Thanks for the recommendation. However, neglected late romantic Austro-German composers who definitely deserve more attention include Joachim Raff, Hans Rott, Siegmund von Hausegger and Robert Fuchs. Richard Wetz is a good example of a previously neglected composer of this school who has achieved a somewhat increased level of fame in recent years, hopefully the same will eventually happen for these other composers. I'm sure there are even more that I am still completely unaware of.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chill782002 View Post
    I've never heard of Franz Schmidt, will have to check out some of his work. Thanks for the recommendation. However, neglected late romantic Austro-German composers who definitely deserve more attention include Joachim Raff, Hans Rott, Siegmund von Hausegger and Robert Fuchs. Richard Wetz is a good example of a previously neglected composer of this school who has achieved a somewhat increased level of fame in recent years, hopefully the same will eventually happen for these other composers. I'm sure there are even more that I am still completely unaware of.
    I'm surprised you haven't heard of Franz Schmidt; there are many recordings of his works compared to a small number for Wetz.

    As it happens, Schmidt's Book of the Seven Seals is doing quite well in the sacred choral knockout game currently in action.

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    It's been said that Schmidt was a sort of Austrian Elgar in that both composers explored a vein of nobility absent in the music of most of their contemporaries. While their musical styles are not really similar, there are many passages in both men's music that are inspirational with a strong element of nostalgia that their fans find very appealing. Interestingly Schmidt supported the Nazis, whereas Elgar, though a staunch Conservative had many Jewish friends and would have been appalled at Hitler's racial policies.

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    Thank you David for your bringing up the question of Schmidt's behaviour during the Nazi era. Schmidt also had many Jewish friends and was no Nazi, but he collaborated after the German-Austrian Anschluss of 1938 (he was terminally ill and died in 1939). There is relevant reader-friendly information now available on the internet written by historians, academic music specialists, and music critics that is worth reading, not only on Schmidt but on other composers of this period.

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    Max Reger (1873-1916) - a famous enough figure but only the Mozart and Hiller Variations have endured in any kind of way from his orchestral output which when taken as a whole amounts to about 8 hours of music. Fans call his music complex - detractors tend to consider it stodgy and over-busy. And he didn't get around to writing a proper symphony either.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

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    I think Franz Schmidt is (was) being neglected because of the assumed nazi connections. If he would have moved to America like almost all the rest, maybe things could have been different.

    But all that is of course nonsense, let his music speak. And that music is original and magnificent. I don't know how exactly it is distinctive, but his music is in this sense similar to all great composers: you can immediately recognize it's him.

    Schmidt's 1st symphony is something special to me personally, and I have no idea why. I listen to it weekly, and never get tired of it. It may be that I'm just using his music for making myself distinctive, who knows. I don't, nor do I care.

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    Wetz was an enthusiastic Nazi although he died in 1935. It's reasonable to assume that at least part of the reason he was largely forgotten until quite recently was due to this. However, I prefer to judge composers on their work rather than their political views, however distasteful those might be.

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    Rudi Stephan is another name worth mentioning, his works are very interesting although there aren't that many due to his tragic early death in the First World War.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lenny View Post
    I think Franz Schmidt is (was) being neglected because of the assumed nazi connections. If he would have moved to America like almost all the rest, maybe things could have been different.

    But all that is of course nonsense, let his music speak. And that music is original and magnificent. I don't know how exactly it is distinctive, but his music is in this sense similar to all great composers: you can immediately recognize it's him.

    Schmidt's 1st symphony is something special to me personally, and I have no idea why. I listen to it weekly, and never get tired of it. It may be that I'm just using his music for making myself distinctive, who knows. I don't, nor do I care.
    One reason why Schmidt is a great composer is that he was technically very adept. He had his own unique style of orchestration which can be lush but never sickly. He would sometimes use the same harmonic sidesteps that Richard Strauss is famous for, but for me, Schmidt's compositions are much more serious and profound than Strauss's. One of my favourites is his Piano Quintet in G. I can't understand why this music has not entered the chamber repertory. It's an absolute beauty and certainly the equal of the Brahms Piano Quintet - which is saying a very great deal.

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    Just finished listening to Das Buch mit Sieben Siegeln... I've known this work for long but haven't listened to it in a while. I'm almost physically shaking now. Maybe it can be seen as a black counterpart to Haydn's magnificient and radiant Die Schöpfung. The un-creation. Peeling apart layers from reality one by one until nothing is left and a cold, new light shines through, unobstructed. HALLELUJAH!

    In addition, I always bring Walter Braunfels up in discussions like this. Check out his Te Deum, a serious and monumental affair.
    Wäre das Faktum wahr, – wäre der außerordentliche Fall wirklich eingetreten, daß die politische Gesetzgebung der Vernunft übertragen, der Mensch als Selbstzweck respektiert und behandelt, das Gesetz auf den Thron erhoben, und wahre Freiheit zur Grundlage des Staatsgebäudes gemacht worden, so wollte ich auf ewig von den Musen Abschied nehmen, und dem herrlichsten aller Kunstwerke, der Monarchie der Vernunft, alle meine Thätigkeit widmen.

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    Not yet mentioned, but worth exploring is Hans Pfitzner, especially his orchestral songs (CPO CD).
    Allüberall und ewig blauen licht die Fernen! Ewig ... ewig ...

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    Felix Weingartner has left a vast number of orchestral compositions - 7 symphonies, various poems and overtures etc.

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    My thanks for all your informative, thoughtful responses to, "What is distinctive about Schmidt's orchestral music?" To summarize: David notes Schmidt's vein of nobility, and inspirational passages with a strong element of nostalgia; David later adds Schmidt's technical adeptness e.g. uniquely lush but not sickly orchestration, and Straussian harmonic sidesteps in works much more profound than Strauss's. Lenny immediately recognizes that Schmidt's music is by him, and never tires of the personally special Symphony No.1. I concur with all this, noting also a distinct sense of "historical time" in Schmidt's Second Symphony: the 2nd m. goes from a simple early 19th-century-style theme to a closing up-to-date scherzo in waltz time; the 3rd m. starting from strict 18th-century counterpoint, builds to a huge brass chorale plus complex late-19th-century orchestral adornment by the end. Can anyone think of a work or movement before Schmidt that progresses "historically through music?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    Can anyone think of a work or movement before Schmidt that progresses "historically through music?"
    Spohr - Symphony 6 (link).
    Allüberall und ewig blauen licht die Fernen! Ewig ... ewig ...

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