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Dip Your Ears, No. 238 (Franz Schmidt Rarities and Delights)

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Franz Schmidt, Variations on a Hussar’s Song, Piano Concerto, Chaconne
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Alexander Rumpf, Jasminka Stančul (piano)

Franz Schmidt is one of those “Surprised by Beauty” romantics of the 20th century whose (re-)discovery is still ongoing. Latest exhibit: This CD, unearthing a world-premiere in the form of the Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra. Anyone familiar with Schmidt’s opera Notre Dame might think he pilfered the opera for this 20-minute, one-movement work. Au contraire, the Fantasy came first. What a humdinger! We may no longer know the once truly popular, famous tunes, but we can readily appreciate how they were popular in a Vienna where the cab drivers hummed operetta arias. Coupled with the nearly-as romantic Hussar’s Variations and the Chaconne (Schmidt’s orchestration of his own organ work), this is a perfect, quite well performed addition to the Schmidt-catalog and any romantic music lover’s library. The last hint of orchestral sheen is missing, but unless Manfred Honeck records this repertoire with the Vienna or Pittsburgh bands, you’re bound not to get any better any time soon. (You might remember Welser-Möst's fine recording of the Variations, coupled with the Fourth Symphony, but it obvioulsy lacks the Concerto and also the Chaconne and it's since been allowed to go out of print.)

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