Hindemith made celebrated recordings of all three of these works in London, and all of them have weathered the test of time. Perhaps the best known is David Oistrakh’s performance of the Violin Concerto (Decca 470 258-2), one of the most centrally recommendable of all Hindemith recordings, even now - and not simply by virtue of having the composer on the rostrum. It’s doubtless a burden for the generations of violinists who have set down their recordings after that 1956 reading, but there is much to say in this concerto and many ways in which to say it. Foremost is the question of expressive warmth. No one has found more of that, in my experience, than Oistrakh and Hindemith. Even so good a recording as the recent one by Frank Peter Zimmermann (BIS 2024) ultimately lacked that level of engagement.
Midori and Eschenbach approach the work in the spirit of refinement and purity of tone. They project much that is admirable and the conductor takes care to balance the winds in the opening movement, and to control but not underplay the brassy vitality of the finale. The rhythmic engine of the performance is fine. Midori’s approach is one of concentration of tonal projection - a ringing, tight, silvery sound that opens up principally in the slow section of the finale where she widens her vibrato appreciably. Of its type it’s an excellent reading, but it sounds less committed than Zimmermann’s with Paavo Järvi on BIS.
The couplings are valuable in the context. True, the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by C.M von Weber is, if anything, a better known piece. It receives an agile, vibrant reading from the NDR Symphony and Eschenbach, although I could have done with a touch more bite in the second movement Scherzo. Eschenbach goes easy on the emotion in the slow movement, and finishes confidently. The Concert Music was a Koussevitzky commission in 1930, a bipartite and effective piece, that requires a director with a strong control of rhythm and a flair for projection. It has both in Eschenbach, though once again, the composer’s own recording has real authority and just a bit more humanity about it.