Saturday, September 05, 2015

Forgotten music

Writing in the Guardian Gavin Plumley draws attention to the performance of Franz Schmidt’s Second Symphony on Sept. 10th at the BBC Proms. Not only is this the first time that Schmidt's Second Symphony has been heard at the Proms, but it is also only the second performance of any symphony by him in the one hundred and twenty year history of the concerts. Gavin concludes his persuasive advocacy by drawing attention to "the constant need to reappraise, rewrite and enrich our account of music during the first half of the 20th century". This message resonates strongly with my musings on how audiences need permission to like different music, and with Alex Ross' lament that today's orchestra culture excludes so many deserving symphonies. Gavin Plumley wrote the much-missed Entartete Musik blog, and in a post last year I proposed that we need to widen the definition of forbidden music. Access to music is now controlled not by authoritarian regimes, but by corporations and celebrities with self-interested agendas. So, instead of forbidden music, we now have forgotten music. All credit to Semyon Bychkov and the Vienna Philharmonic for challenging this new cultural despotism by bringing Franz Schmidt's forgotten symphony to the Proms.

The other Franz Schmidt symphony performed at the Proms was his somewhat better-known Fourth in 1998. The header image shows my 1972 Decca LP of the Fourth Symphony. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment:

Pliable said...

John McLaughlin Williams comments on Facebook:

Not forgotten; there are many who always knew. (I do not count myself among them.) Here is a master for the ages, and I have Toshi Shimada to thank for introducing me to the greatness of Franz Schmidt.

Interesting that Adorno had little love for him; Schmidt points neither forward nor backward, espouses no trends or fashions, yet is decidedly not a composer only of his time. It's his absorption of the ineffable qualities that make music timeless and lasting and his ability to fashion them into something clearly new and his own that has kept his name alive during dark times, and that will lead to ever greater exposure in the future.