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Vienna Philharmonic in splendid hi-res recording of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No.2 / stereophile

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Semyon Bychkov and the Vienna Philharmonic's splendid recording of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No.2, recently released by Sony in CD and hi-rez formats, is dazzling in its pastoral splendor. The music is lush and liquid, with one gorgeous orchestral effusion after the other. Which is not to say that Schmidt's ideas, as verdant as they be, flow organically in a manner that creates a coherent whole.

Truth be told, the Second Symphony tends to careen from idea to idea, and from one key change to another, sometimes without apparent regard for the big picture. It opens with music so densely scored and deliciously performed that it sounds like spring in full flower. Around 8:50, as it continues to wander through fields, valleys, and lush forests, it reaches a big. juicy climax. (Don't quote me on that timing, because I was too overwhelmed by the impact of it all to think about opening my eyes to check my dCS Paganini transport's read-out until after the fact.) But after more flowing music, Schmidt seems unsure where to go.

Happily, once he drives a new idea forward, it is invariably pleasing, and often dazzling. Some themes may be a bit pedantic, but once everybody in the Vienna Philharmonic starts playing at once, the visceral experience is so overwhelming that the head tends not to care. As long as you can allow for the fact that Schmidt is wont to shift gears midstream, and that the endings of his first and third (final) movements are strangely anti-climactic, you may find yourself in love with his Second Symphony.

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