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New Vienna Philharmonic - Bychkov account of Franz Schmidt's Sym no. 2 is more than welcome / The Arts Fuse

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Schmidt's four symphonies are each immensely difficult to pull together and, as a result, rare events to catch live. Recordings are few and far between, so the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's (VPO) new account of the Symphony no. 2 with Semyon Bychkov for Sony Classical is more than welcome.

Its main rival in the discography is Neeme Järvi's classic account with the Chicago Symphony (CSO) on Chandos. Taped near the end of Sir Georg Solti's long tenure with the ensemble, that's a brawny and exuberant affair, featuring intense playing from the CSO capped by a stellar chorale from the Bud Herseth-led brass section.

In comparison, Bychkov's performance sounds altogether more refined. The Viennese have Schimdt's style – a cross between the rhetoric of Bruckner, the orchestral virtuosity of Strauss, and the harmonic progressions of Scriabin and Max Reger – in their collective blood (and vice versa: Schmidt was a member of the orchestra's cello section early in his career). Accordingly, you hear everything in a different way in this reading. All the Symphony's busy counterpoint is layered with exquisite transparency, both volume-wise and tonally.

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