Richard Bratby

The beautiful, haunted symphonies of Franz Schmidt

Dogged by false accusations that he was a Nazi, the Austrian composer has finally been brought in from the cold

Composer Franz Schmidt with conductor Oswald Kabasta before the premiere of his oratorio The Book with Seven Seals in 1938. Photo: Imagno / Getty Images

The sounds that Franz Schmidt made while learning the trumpet were pretty much unbearable, or so the story goes. In order to practise he would leave his home in the Lower Austrian town of Perchtoldsdorf and walk up to the heath, a grassy hillside above the town. There, far from unappreciative neighbours, and looking down towards the spires of Vienna, a few miles north and east, he could crack notes to his heart’s content — in perfect isolation.

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