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Paul HINDEMITH (1895 - 1963)
Organ Concerto No. 2 (1962) [28.39]
Recorded November 1969, location not given.
Sonata #1 for organ (1937) [17.57]
Sonata #2 for organ (1937) [11.47]
Sonata #3 for organ (1940) [10.25]
Anton Heiller, organ
Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Milan Horvat, conductor
Elisabeth Ullmann, Flentrop organ.
Recorded at the Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria, 13 July 1979 ADD
Notes in English, Français, Deutsch
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 60227-2 [69.19]

Comparison recordings of the sonatas:
E. Power Biggs, Busch-Reisinger organ, Cambridge, MA, USA CBS LP CMS 6234
Piet Kee, Müller organ of St. Bavo, Haarlem, Netherlands Chandos 9097

I have numbered this concerto #2 above to distinguish it from the "Kammermusik #7" Op 46 #2 (1928) which is by all rights Hindemith’s organ concerto #1. This second concerto was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and was premiered in 1962; it is Hindemith’s last symphonic work. Like much late Hindemith it is thoughtful and well constructed with less of the impishness of the earlier works.

Hindemith at this late hour of his life was depressed and disillusioned. Five years previously his greatest opera on which he had laboured for decades had been furiously attacked by scholars, critics, and press alike (After its premier in 1957 it was buried, not to see the light of day again until this year). He demanded deference and honours and was dissatisfied with whatever he received, and so even his bitterness was also held against him. He succeeded in living only three years longer than Bach. So, those who know the jocular earlier organ concerto may be disappointed to find this one at times anguished and tense with echoes of Karl Amadeus Hartmann. The fun has turned sarcastic and satirical, but the cleanness of the harmonies remains as does the assurance of a beautiful future to come. If you love late Hindemith you will love this work, but if all you know is the earlier ebullience, there may be a little bit here to get used to. The performance is superb, all that one could hope for, and the sound is also excellent, the balance between organ and orchestra absolutely exemplary. Like many phase accurate organ recordings, it will open up nicely in your Dolby Surround decoder, although it is, of course, a two channel recording.

This is certainly the finest version of the organ sonatas I’ve heard. The Flentrop organ is clear with the voices independently audible, yet when necessary the sound has mass and depth. The Biggs recording is also very good, but the sound of these old CBS LP recordings, such wonders of high fidelity in their day, show their age now. The Chandos recording is an unusual one, recorded in a more reverberant acoustic than one is used to for these works. This has the effect of emphasising the vertical or harmonic dimension while blurring the horizontal structure. The music survives this treatment, of course; if you have been put off by the Hindemith sonatas because they seem to you to be too shrill or too flippant, too much like calliope music, you might find this approach to your liking.

Paul Shoemaker



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