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
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.
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.
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.
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