This constitutes the
complete DG legacy of Hindemith conducting
his own orchestral compositions.
Other companies also
contributed to the composer imprimatur
literature. Telefunken issued a 78 rpm
set of Mathis. Famously Decca
recorded the Violin Concerto with Oistrakh
- a formidably steady seller ever since.
Everest contributed the Requiem as
well as a Vienna Festival Orchestra
version of Harmonie der Welt.
EMI recorded him conducting the Philharmonia
in Konzertmusik, Symphony for
concert band, Nobilissima and
Sinfonia Serena as well as the
concertos for horn (Brain) and clarinet
(Cahuzac). Fascinatingly, tucked away
in the archives, there is a recording
on Victor 78s of Hindemith as violist
in Der Schwanendreher - now that
I would like to hear! [see note]
Uniform with Universal's
other Original Masters sets the presentation
here is exemplary. The notes by Giselher
Schubert concentrate on Hindemith as
conductor of his own works clearly using
DG's in-house archive files to fascinating
Hindemith was born
in Hanau, Germany and studied at Frankfurt
where his first conductor role was taken
at the Opera in 1923. During that decade
he held vanguard position amid the avant-garde
yet rejected twelve tone strictures.
The Concerto for
Orchestra fits the bill of a rambunctious
display piece to perfection. In the
finale listen out at 00.48 for the impressively
skidding scree of string sound. In the
Konzert Hindemith treats us to
a Bartókian cut-glass piano part
(wonderfully done by Monique Haas) -
all splinters and dazzle. There is also
a marine fathom-depth to the delicate
entwining of dreamy piano and harp.
The last movement is memorable for pipingly
acrid brass with lovingly weighted and
restively brilliant dissonance at 00.48.
with deep tender chordal sighs from
the Berlin Phil's violin section. This
version has an achingly poignant tenderness
which recalls RVW's Tallis and
Fifth Symphony. The Furtwängler-directed
premiere of the opera on which the symphony
is modelled was to have taken place
at the Berlin State Opera in 1934 but
was cancelled because a plot concerned
with the death of German liberalism
was rather too close to the reality
of the times. As it was, the Symphony
was premiered in Berlin on 12 March
1934. The opera saw fresh air in Zurich
in 1938. I have been listening to Bruno
Walter's Mozart recently and the satin
sheen on the strings of his orchestras
would suit this music very well indeed.
After two movements that speak of serenity
the finale leads our pilgrim ears through
a ‘valley of the shadow of death’ out
into a complex sunlight. This movement
come from the intermezzo of the opera's
final scene in which Mathis turns his
back on the vicious outside world. The
Symphony is part of a repertoire of
works inspired by visual works of art.
These include McCabe's Chagall Windows,
Frescoes of Pierro della Francesca
and Rachmaninov and Reger's pieces inspired
by Boecklin's Isle of the Dead.
The Hindemith work is designed to evoke
the reactions of someone viewing Mathias
Grünewald's paintings at the Isenheim
Altar in Colmar.
The Symphonic Dances
sprang from a commission for a ballet
by Diaghilev with choreography by Leonid
Massine (as did the Weber Metamorphosis).
When Hindemith was told that the subject
was St Francis he discarded the music
he had written thus far and these Dances
come from the ‘discards’. The braying
trumpet at 1.40 in the sehr langsam
third movement is rather Russian
- a surprise from the Berlin benches.
The work is more symphony than dance
though there are episodes of strongly
The Four Temperaments
comprises theme and four variations:
Melancholic (tragic and memorable
for the dialogue between Ott's piano
and Hans Gieseler's solo violin), Sanguine
(a very attractive romantic waltz
on the same psychological line as Prokofiev's),
Phlegmatic (equivocal and then
soused in gemutlichkeit) and finally
Choleric (triumphant rather than
angry). The piano part is to the fore
and often sprightly and confidently
The Weber Metamorphosis
is Hindemith's most popular work
and the only one I have heard live.
It presents a beamingly ebullient Hindemith
and one who, in the second movement,
dabbles in Chinoiserie across magically
held hushed notes from the strings.
The four movements draw on themes from
Weber’s eight pieces for four hand piano
Op. 60 All'Ongharese. The second
movement relates to the overture to
Schiller's ‘Turandot’. There are several
moments (tr. 4 2.54) when the skirling
woodwind seem to relate to Mahler's
works for instance the Bethge-based
Das Lied von der Erde. The last
movement recalls the Konzertmusik
finale. Its brass effrontery rasps
and blooms (the Sousa-American influence
already?). Hindemith was to become a
US citizen in 1946.
The Amor und Psyche
overture is from the depths of the
Second World War. It is a delightful
piece with tinges of disillusion amid
the hope. Written in the USA it is extremely
attractive and delicately wrought; a
stand-out track in this set.
Die Harmonie der
Welt is an opera in five acts to
a text by the composer. It had been
premiered in Munich on 11 August 1957
three years after the recording sessions
for the Symphony drawn from its music.
The Symphony was premiered in Basle
on 24 January 1952 with Sacher conducting.
The critic Everett Helm claimed that
the work was more of a pageant of events
in the life of astronomer and musician
Johannes Kepler than any conventionally
narrative opera. It is reportedly less
of a representation than a metaphor
for a philosophical and ethical viewpoint.
The symphony is probably a better vehicle
for this than a word-shackled opera.
The first movement is taken up with
Kepler's blighted childhood where the
second finds a kind of epic peace broadly
limned by the strings. The Sehr breit
third movement finale is a passacaglia
- an apt complement to this most symphonic
of the Hindemith symphonies. The music
looks back to Mathis and the
1930s. Little convulsive rhythmic cells
in the woodwind (5.20 in I) remind us
that Hindemith was one of Walter Piston's
teachers. The movements are Musica
Instrumentalis, Musica Humana
and Musica Mundana.
The Hindemith interview
was taken down in Tokyo in April 1956
'on the wing'. It is in German only,
rather like the longer interview on
the Fricsay ‘Original Masters’ set and
has plenty of chatter and whistling
in the background.
An amusing touch, in
a booklet that also reproduces the covers
of the LPs as a nostalgia fix, is a
page from Hindemith's journal into which
he pasted the profusion of misspellings
of his name. A sense of humour there
to contrast with the composer’s forbiddingly
This is the first release
on CD of the Concert for Orchestra,
Konzertmusik, Symphonic Dances,
Amor und Psyche and Harmonie
der Welt symphony.
This mono set is neatly
set off by the simultaneous release
of the splendid 1980s and 1990s Blomstedt-Hindemith
series on Decca
Trio 475 264-2.
This DG box is essential
fare for the Hindemith specialist. Bravo,
Universal and DG!
You mentioned in one of your recent
Hindemith reviews that the recording
of "Der Schwanendreher"
with the composer as soloist was stuck
in the archives. Actually, I transferred
that set (with Arthur Fiedler conducting
his Sinfonietta) along with all of the
rest of his Victor records for a Biddulph
CD release (LAB 087) several years ago.
This disc also included the Hindemith
playing "Trauermusik" (with
an unnamed orchestra conducted by Bruno
Reibold), the Viola Sonata No. 3 and
the Four-Hand Piano Sonata, the latter
two with Jesus-Maria Sanroma. All the
items were recorded in 1939. It's not
listed in the back
catalogue on the Biddulph website, so
I assume it's out of print.