Franz Schmidt was “the most musical man in Vienna” – this is what Gustav Mahler had to say about his fellow composer, who, unlike him, is almost completely forgotten today. Stefan Blunier has rediscovered this late-romantic master and now with the mighty forces of the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn presents Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 together with Richard Strauss’s Festival Prelude composed during the same year for the opening of Vienna’s Konzerthaus. Schmidt played in a string quartet with Arnold Schönberg, but the tonal idioms of the two composers could not have been more different. While Schönberg very early bade farewell to major-minor harmony and later turned to twelvetone music, Schmidt remained true to tonality until the end of his life. After the Austrian Anschluss this commitment brought him dubious distinctions from the Nazis – which of course did not help him after the fall of the “Thousand-Year Reich.” Schmidt calls for a gigantic orchestra for his second symphony. However, sheer volume is a concern only in a few passages. He instead emphasizes kaleidoscopic color shifts produced in what is often an instrumentation reminiscent of chamber music. Behind it all there is a masterfully composed texture with overlapping themes and variations resulting in a cyclical work structure with a systematic logic. By contrast, in the Festival Prelude the musikal magician Richard Strauss – once again – aims at big sound. The majestic development of instrumental splendor leaves nobody unmoved – especially when the three-dimensional 2+2+2 live recording transports the illusion of a firsthand audio experiences right into your own living room. When the prelude celebrated its premiere Beethoven’s hymnic ninth symphony was also on the concert program – but Strauss’s new work had a much greater impact.