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Monday, April 17, 2017

Franz Schmidt - The Book with Seven Seals (Franz Welser-Möst)


Composer: Franz Schmidt

  1. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Gnade sei mit euch
  2. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Ich bin das A und das O
  3. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und eine Tür ward aufgetan im Himmel
  4. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Heilig, heilig ist Gott der Allmächtige
  5. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und ich sah in der rechten Hand
  6. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Nun sah ich, und siehe, mitten vor dem Throne
  7. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Orgel solo
  8. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als das Lamm der Siegel erstes auftrat
  9. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als das Lamm der Siegel zweites auftrat
  10. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als das Lamm der Siegel drittes auftrat
  11. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als das Lamm der Siegel viertes auftrat
  12. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als das Lamm der Siegel fünftes auftrat
  13. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und es wurde ihnen einem jeglichen gegeben ein weißes Kleid
  14. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und ich sah, daß das Lamm der Siegel sechstes auftrat
  1. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Orgel solo. Nach dem Auftun des siebenten der Siegel
  2. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Ein Weib, umkleidet mit der Sonne
  3. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und sie gebar einen Sohn
  4. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Im Himmel aber erhob sich ein großer Streit
  5. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Und als die große Stille im Himmel vorüber war
  6. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Vor dem Angesichte dessen, der auf weißem Throne saß
  7. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Ich bin das A und das O
  8. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Hallelujah!
  9. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Wir danken die, o Herr, allmächtiger Gott
  10. Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln: Ich bin es, Johannes, der all dies hörte

Stig Andersen, tenor (John)
René Pape, bass (The Voice of the Lord)
Christiane Oelze, soprano
Cornelia Kallisch, contralto
Lothar Odinius, tenor
Alfred Reiter, bass
Friedemann Winklhofer, organ

Bavarian Radio Chorus
Michael Gläser, chorus master
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor

Date: 1997
Label: EMI



Franz Welser-Most’s recording of the Schmidt Fourth Symphony and the Variations on a Hussar’s Song (EMI, 1/96) won a Gramophone Award two years ago – and deservedly so. In it he showed complete sympathy with Schmidt’s world and sensibility, and so it is only natural that he should now turn to what many admirers consider Schmidt’s masterpiece, Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (“The Book with Seven Seals”). It was immediately after finishing the Fourth Symphony that Schmidt turned to the last book of the New Testament, the Revelation of St John the Divine, for his text. The score occupied him during 1935-7 and was first given at the Grossersaal of the Vienna Singverein in June 1938, only a year before his death. Along with Wilhelm Sinkovitz’s notes, the EMI booklet reproduces Schmidt’s own commentary on the work included in the 1938 programme-booklet.

There are already four rival versions available. As I said when reviewing the Calig release under Horst Stein, nobility shines through almost every bar of the score – mind you, one can say this of almost everything Schmidt wrote. The Mitropoulos recording which derives from a performance at the 1959 Salzburg Festival falls into a special category and even if some collectors may hesitate at the prospect of a mono recording nearly 40 years old, it has the authority of Anton Dermota – who had taken part in the 1938 premiere – as the Evangelist, as well as the inspired direction of Mitropoulos. As I said at the time, this performance seems to me “to sing with a special fervour” and should not be overlooked.

However, this new recording sees off the rest of the competition listed above with ease. DJF wrote appreciatively of Schreier on the Zagrosek recording but was less convinced by the other singers, and although I found much to admire in the Calig recording under Horst Stein, who also conducts with dedication and sympathy, I thought the recording “by no means state-of-the-art”, with a texture wanting in freshness and transparency and needing a deeper front-to-back perspective. The new Munich recording offers much finer sound, and a performance of great commitment and grandeur. Schmidt portrays John as a young man and apparently wished to have a Heldentenor rather than a lyric tenor sing the role, and this is observed here. The singing throughout is of impressive quality from all concerned – and in particular Stig Andersen – and the sensitive orchestral response leaves no doubt of all the artists’ belief in this visionary and often inspired work. On almost every count this new Bavarian performance does justice to Schmidt’s masterpiece. The technical balance of the recording has been most expertly and musically done. Readers who have been impressed by the Schmidt symphonies and in particular Welser-Most’s Fourth need not – and should not – hesitate.

-- Robert Layton, Gramophone

More reviews:


Franz Schmidt (22 December 1874 – 11 February 1939) was an Austrian composer, cellist and pianist. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory with Robert Fuchs, Ferdinand Hellmesberger and Anton Bruckner. Schmidt was also a brilliant pianist. As a composer, Schmidt was slow to develop, but his reputation, at least in Austria, saw a steady growth from the late 1890s until his death in 1939. In his music, Schmidt continued to develop the Viennese classic-romantic traditions he inherited from Schubert, Brahms and his own master, Bruckner.


Franz Welser-Möst (born 16 August 1960 in Linz, Austria) is an Austrian conductor. In his youth, he studied the violin, but after suffering injuries in a car crash, he stopped his violin studies and shifted full-time to conducting studies. He is currently music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (since 2002, with contract extended through the 2021-2022 season). During his tenure with the London Philharmonic Orchesra (1990-1996), Welser-Möst had established an exclusive recording contract with EMI. In October 2007, Deutsche Grammophon released the first commercial recording featuring Welser-Möst with The Cleveland Orchestra.


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