During my student year in Vienna (rather a while ago, if you must know), my friends told me that two large-scale musical works would be my best guide to understanding the Viennese musical soul. One was Hans Pfitzner’s opera Palestrina, which was in repertory at the State Opera. The other was Franz Schmidt’s oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, taken from the Book of the Revelation, the description by St. John the Divine of the Book With Seven Seals wherein lay the pertinent facts about the destiny of mankind. I attended both, over two long evenings that revealed to me, above all, the extent of pain that extreme boredom can produce. The Viennese audience, in both cases, greeted this thoroughly dreadful music with the ultimate ovation: complete silence interlaced with adoration. Pfitzner’s opera, which was produced at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival a couple of years ago and was greeted with a differently motivated kind of silence, has been around on disc for some time. Now comes the Schmidt, in its full uncoiling, running just under two hours, grinding and groaning under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst, wonderfully performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with Stig Andersen and René Pape as, respectively, St. John and the Voice of God, and vividly recorded as if the Almighty himself were at the console. There are already three older versions of the work, would you believe, all recorded live under less than ideal conditions. Here it is now: last week’s schnitzel, congealed and stale, but elegantly served.