Blue and White

Friday, April 16, 2010

Franz Schmidt

The best classical music composers of all times were either Austrian (Mozart, Bruckner, Mahler) or German (Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms). But there have been some other composers who never made it big. Maybe because of bad luck. Maybe because they were are at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

One of them was Franz Schmidt. Shmidt was an Austrian composer who had the bad luck to be the best classical composer in Austria and Germany during Nazi times. Even worse, Hitler thought highly of his music. It is unclear if Schmidt was a Nazi supporter or not. He died in 1939 before World War II. There is some evidence to suggest that he did not really like the Nazis, despite the fact that he was loved by Hitler and other high ranked nazis. He never completed a composition that the Nazi state had asked him to do. It seems that he deliberately ignored it. Sadly, his wife was a Nazi victim herself. She was murdered by the Nazis after his death, under the Nazi euthanasia program, because she suffered from a mental illness.

Schmidt was a student of Bruckner. He wrote 4 symphonies. Symphony #1 is remarkable and clearly Brucknerian in style. A powerful symphony, but much more refined than Bruckner's symphonies. It almost comes across like an evolution of Bruckner. A mature version of Brucker. It is really remarkable. The other 3 symphonies of Schmidt vary in style. They have diverse influences, ranging from Bruckner, Brahms, Reger and maybe even Schoenberg in some parts. But they have a very unique style. They are characterized by an undefined mysticism. A continuous search without completion or resolution. In some ways Schmidt's music is reminiscent of the distant mysticism of Charles Ives. Of course, he is very different than Ives in any other respect.

Schmidt's music is really something. Especially symphony #1. One can not help it but wonder if this exceptional composer would have been more recognized if he did not have the bad luck to live during Nazi times and have his name unfairly linked to the Nazis.