42. Franz Schmidt [365 Composers for 2013]


11th February – Franz Schmidt


Schmidt (22nd December 1874 – 11th February 1939) is our composer for 11th February, to mark the day of his death.
Nationality: Austrian
Lifespan: 65 years
Genre: 20th Century
Education: Vienna Conservatory
Fame Ranking: 5

Franz Schmidt was an exceptionally talented cello and piano player, as well as a successful composer. Born at the end of the Romantic era, Schmidt was more keen on extending the traditional forms of Schubert and Brahms than embracing any of the brand new techniques which others, such as Schoenberg, were experimenting with. Schmidt’s music is tonal, which means that he continued to use the system of major/minor scales as the basis for his compositions, whereas many of his contemporaries were moving away from what they saw as a hackneyed system.

Schmidt’s popularity grew slowly but steadily throughout his life. He wrote four symphonies, two operas, and several vocal works as well as chamber music. Towards the end of his life, Austria was annexed by the Nazi party, and he was hailed by the Nazis as one of their own. The Nazis commissioned a Cantata entitled “A German Resurrection”, which Schmidt began but never finished. It is unclear whether he ever was actually a supporter of the Nazis however, and some reports state that he was simply very naive about politics.

Schmidt’s personal life was tinged with tragedy. His first wife was committed to a mental institution, where she was eventually murdered by the Nazis, and his daughter died a short time after giving birth, Schmidt’s 4th Symphony was dedicated to her memory, subtitled “Requiem for my Daughter”. This piece, and also an Oratorio entitled “The Book with Seven Seals”, are perhaps Schmidt’s most acclaimed works.


Here is the first movement of Schmidt’s 4th Symphony:


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