Schmidt was born in Pozsony in the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
He studied piano briefly with Theodor Leschetizky. He moved to Vienna with his family in 1888, and studied at the Vienna Conservatory (composition with Robert Fuchs, cello with Ferdinand Hellmesberger and theory (the counterpoint class) with Anton Bruckner, graduating "with excellence" in 1896.
He obtained a post as cellist with the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra, where he played until 1914, often under Gustav Mahler.
Schmidt and Arnold Schoenberg maintained cordial relations despite their vast differences in style. Also a brilliant pianist, in 1914 Schmidt took up a professorship in piano at the Vienna Conservatory.
As a composer, Schmidt was slow to develop, but his reputation, at least in Austria, saw a steady growth from the late 1890s until his death in 1939. In his music, Schmidt continued to develop the Viennese classic-romantic traditions he inherited from Schubert, Brahms and his own master, Bruckner.
His works are monumental in form and firmly tonal in language, though quite often innovative in their designs and clearly open to some of the new developments in musical syntax.
Schmidt, who died in 1939, ploughed a late romantic furrow and he was one of the few composers of his time to write warmly and meaningfully for the organ. His language is instantly attractive and it flowers imaginatively and expressively among the organ's terraced colours. His chords are spicy and his harmonic progressions tingle with challenging optimism.
The flamboyance of the Hallelujah d major Prelude, with its heraldic chords joined by flashy bravura strings of notes belongs to the showbiz section of the organ-music market. Its fugue is no less appealing, with its three-section structure and its massive chordal ending.
The piece has been recorded on the concert hall several times before, but only once including the fugue.