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Hindemith: Das Marienleben (1948) / Isokoski, Viitasalo

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 11482   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Soile IsokoskiMarita Viitasalo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There have been too few recordings of this magnificent song cycle, so it doesn't mean as much as it should to say that this is easily the finest of them. Hindemith recognized the importance of this music, and it haunted him throughout his life. The opening bars announcing the birth of Mary occur not only throughout the work (most notably in The Birth of Christ and On the Death of Mary III) but in many other pieces as well--such as the slow movement of the Cello Concerto and the Symphony in E-flat. They became Hindemith's personal leitmotif. And then of course, there's Rilke's gorgeous poetry, lovely in the original German, and grotesque in R.G.L. Barrett's 1923 translation (included in the booklet).
Read more I mean, when the last two words of The Birth of Christ--"Er erfreut" ("he rejoices")--come out as "He gladdeneth", then you know you're in trouble.

Never mind. Soile Isokoski has the perfect voice for this music. Her silvery soprano and impeccable accuracy of pitch give Hindemith's difficult vocal lines the lyrical intensity that he intended. Whether it's the lightness of "The Annunciation to the Shepherds", the darkly tragic "Pietà", or the jubilant concluding poem, Isokoski captures every nuance of the text while at the same time retaining that special, slightly understated intimacy of expression that both the poetry and the music demand. Pianist Marita Viitasalo is very much an equal partner in the proceedings, projecting Hindemith's often bare and potentially clunky writing (c.f. "On the Wedding at Cana") with unflagging elegance and limpid tone. Sensual this music is not, but it often is very beautiful. Neither the performers nor Ondine's perfectly clear, ideally balanced sonics ever let us lose sight of this fact. A great disc!

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Das Marienleben, Op. 27 by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Soile Isokoski (Soprano), Marita Viitasalo (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923/1948; Germany 
Notes: 1948 version. 

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