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Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Kammermusik (1921-27)

Kammermusik No. 1 for twelve solo instruments Op. 24 No. 1 (1921) [15.11]
Kleine Kammermusik for wind quintet, Op. 24 No. 2 (1921) [13.20]
Kammermusik No. 2 for piano Op. 63 No. 1 (1924-5) [18.51]
Kammermusik No. 3, for cello Op. 36 No. 2 (1924-5) [17.26]
Kammermusik No. 4, for violin Op. 36 No. 3 (1924-5) [20.10]
Kammermusik No. 5, for viola Op. 36 No. 4 (1927) [19.00]
Kammermusik No. 6, for viola d’amore Op. 46 No. 1 (1927) [16.04]
Kammermusik No. 7, for organ Op. 46 No. 2 (1927) [16.54]
Konstanty Kulka (vn) (4)
Kim Kashkashian (va) (5)
Norbert Blume (va d'amore) (6)
Lynn Harrell (vc) (3)
Ronald Brautigam (pf) (2)
Leo van Doeselaar (org) (7)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Riccardo Chailly
Rec. Feb (7), June 1990, Grotezaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. DDD
DECCA 473 722-2 [2CDs: 138.04]

Hindemith’s Kammermusik series is a creature of the 1920s written by one of the non-conformist young lions of that era. Their locale was Baden-Baden and Frankfurt. Very much part of the neo-Baroque and Grosz fusion, the music is freewheeling, swerving, swallow-diving, bouncing tangentially off circles created by Berg and Weill.

The organ work (No. 7) is densely overpowering in the first movement, seemingly suspended wraithlike between worlds in the quiet second movement and finally full of jerky restlessness. This is music drained of romance but vigorous and scathing but then nether could any of these works be accused of being windy or overblown.

Hindemith finds a certain ruddy-cheeked cheeriness too. The finale of the viola d’amore work has echoes of the wonderful Schwanendreher concerto. Kammermusic No. 1 gives the impression of a stripped-down Petrushka taken hell-for-leather, often sounding like a great wheezing music box. By contrast the second movement is very tender and loving. The finale hums with vinegary corrosive action accentuated by Miny Dekkers’ accordion. If you know the wild xyklophone solo in first movement of Havergal Brian’s Gothic you will know what to expect. The deliciously edgy sound of the raucously cheeky trumpet throughout and the motoric pellmell of it all makes this set really memorable. Sparks fly everywhere in the brilliant and hurtling first and last movements of No. 2. Kulka makes quicksilver capital out of the acridity and vitriol of the Fourth - interesting to hear him out of his accustomed Szymanowski loop. His pianissimo sprint in the finale is unremittingly impressive but then Kashkashian (soon to up-sticks in favour of ECM) makes a similar impression. These are virtuoso concertos every one.

Slightly out of the sequence is the Kleine Kammermusik which is louche and light - rather like Façade. The clarinet plays the clarinet ragamuffin in Schnelle Viertel. Generally the woodwind show breathtaking unanimity of attack.

Calum Macdonald in his fine notes reminds us that the expression ‘Kammermusik’ is best understood by contrast with the grandiloquently specified orchestras of Mahler and Strauss to which this series was in some measure a reaction. The Hindemith orchestra here is of modest scale by comparison. The Chailly-picked members are listed in the booklet.

Nearly two hours and twenty minutes of musicmaking and festively brilliant writing and playing.

Rob Barnett



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