Franz Schmidt was one of the most influential personalities in Viennese musical life during the first three decades of the 20th century. A cellist and pianist who was much sought after as a chamber music partner, he played with the Vienna Philharmonic (under Gustav Mahler, amongst others), was the solo cellist of the Vienna State Opera and a member of the same string quartet with Arnold Schoenberg. He later became a professor at the Vienna Music Academy, for his second instrument, the piano, and then rector of that institution.
After the deaths of Berg and Schreker and the departure of Schoenberg and Zemlinsky, he was considered the most important composer in the Vienna of the 1930s; his style can be classified as a late-romantic succession to Bruckner. Schmidt wrote next to nothing for solo piano, for he "internally heard only grand symphonic music". Today, we can indeed consider ourselves fortunate that Schmidt met the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in the First World War and commissioned the most important composers of his time to write piano works for him for the left hand. Schmidt's two great works for one-handed piano and orchestra – the Piano Concerto and the Beethoven Variations – are on this double CD alongside the Quintet for Piano and Strings composed for Wittgenstein. The programme is completed by the great orchestral Chaconne in C-sharp minor.