Austrian composer, cellist, pianist and teacher Franz Schmidt was born on 22 December 1874 in what is now Bratislava, to Hungarian and Austro-Hungarian parents. The family moved to Vienna in 1888, and Schmidt studied at the conservatory there with Robert Fuchs, Ferdinand Hellmesberger and Anton Bruckner.
His first job was as a cellist with the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra, often playing under Gustav Mahler, for whom he played all the cello solos, even though he wasn't the principal player.
In 1914 he became a piano professor at the Vienna Conservatory. By 1925 he had become director, and by 1927 the rector. He taught piano, cello, counterpoint and composition, and influenced many musicians who later became famous. He was slow to develop his own technique as a composer, but his reputation began to grow from the 1890s onwards, leading eventually to the oratorio The Book with Seven Seals (1935-7).
Declining health meant that he retired from the Academy in 1937 and he abandoned a commission from the Nazis to write a German Resurrection cantata in favour of two smaller commissions for pianist Paul Wittgenstein. Schmidt died on 11 February 1939.
A selection of M&V articles about Franz Schmidt
Ensemble. Wonderfully Atmospheric - Górecki, Chilcott, Thompson and Bernstein from Malcolm Goldring and the Sitwell Singers, heard by Mike Wheeler
Technique and Musicianship - Tony Westerman is impressed by the organ playing of Tom Corfield
Ensemble. Apocalypse Now - Franz Schmidt's 'The Book with Seven Seals', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Convincingly Handled - Tom Corfield plays the organ of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. Craftsmanship and Spirit - Symphonies by James Cohn, heard by Patric Standford
A bombshell - Roderic Dunnett talks to Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst about Franz Schmidt's Book with Seven Seals