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Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-1963)
Burleske Musik (1931)a [10:02]
Piano Concerto (1953)a [15:03]
Concerto funebre (1939, rev. 1959)b [20:09]
Viola Concerto (1954/5)c [25:00]
Yorck Kronenberg (piano)a; Benjamin Schmid (violin)b; Elisabeth Kufferath (viola)c; Florian Uhlig (piano)c; SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern/Paul Goodwin
rec. SWR Studio Kaiserslautern, 1 September 2004 (Burleske Musik), 5-6 February 2004 (Piano Concerto), 23-24 April 2007 (Concerto funebre) and 25-27 April 2007 (Viola Concerto)
WERGO WER67142 [70:39]
Experience Classicsonline

The backbone of Hartmann’s output undoubtedly rests in his eight symphonies and several orchestral works such as Miserae (1933/4), Symphonische Hymnen (1941/3), Sinfonia Tragica (1940/3) and Klagesang (1944/5). His work-list also includes operas, piano works and some chamber music among which are two string quartets. Most of them have been recorded over the years, although some badly need new recordings. This disc is – to the best of my knowledge – the first recording of his three concertos. Incidentally, one should add that the early Burleske Musik (1931) is not a real concerto but rather a work with an important piano part. There is also another concerto: the Chamber Concerto for clarinet, string quartet and string orchestra (1930/5) available on ECM.

As already mentioned, Hartmann’s Burleske Musik is not a proper concerto but rather a short suite in four concise movements scored for flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion and piano. It is an early piece and its musical idiom is clearly of its time with many hints of early Stravinsky (The Soldier’s Tale) and early Hindemith with some extra irony at times close to Les Six in France. This is a delightful and enormously enjoyable work from Hartmann’s early years, and light years from his more serious symphonic statements.

By far Hartmann’s best known concerto is the Concerto funebre composed in 1939 and revised in 1959. Unlike some German composers of that period, Hartmann turned to an inner exile and went on composing extensively while forbidding performance in Nazi Germany. Many of these works written in exile resurfaced after the war and some were eventually reworked into some of the early symphonies. One may assume that the violin concerto remained mostly unchanged from its original conception. The music quotes from the Hussite Chorale and, in the final movement, from a Russian workers’ funeral march. This is clearly music of protest expressed with comparatively straightforward means and the more impressive for that reason.

The Konzert für Klavier, Bläser und Schlagzeug is a mighty statement often reminiscent of Bartók. One may at times think of the Hungarian composer’s First Piano Concerto and particularly of its first movement scored for winds and percussion. The first movement Andante et Rondeau varié is an energetic toccata that moves along at great speed. The slow movement (Mélodie) has a more animated central section that strongly contrasts with the calmer outer sections. The third movement is yet another Rondeau varié. An interesting feature of Hartmann’s Piano Concerto is its use of variable meters, a technique developed by Boris Blacher. By the way, this was the only time that Hartmann ever used it.

Hartmann’s final concerto is the Konzert für Viola und Klavier begleitet von Bläsern und Schlagzeug, to give it its full title. It is in three movements: an opening Rondo followed by the slow central Mélodie and a concluding Rondo varié. The instrumental line-up of this and of the Piano Concerto certainly reflects Hartmann’s admiration of Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds as well as of Berg’s Chamber Concerto for violin, piano and thirteen winds. It may also reflect Hartmann’s own will to avoid any sentimentality by putting some more emphasis on a certain Sachlichkeit achieved through the rather stringent scoring for winds and percussion. Although less informed by variable meters, the music nevertheless still displays tight organisation based on metric rows. In his last two concertos Hartmann achieved a completely satisfying blend of powerful expression and tightly knit argument, which is in fact his real trade mark.

These performances are all excellent and superbly committed while the recorded sound is very fine indeed with just enough brightness and urgency to bring out Hartmann’s strongly expressive music in the best possible way.

Hubert Culot


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