“First recording of complete ballet” this CD tray card proudly proclaims. Sorry guys, that honor goes (at a minimum) to Karl Anton Rickenbacher with the Bamberg Symphony on Koch, released way back in 1995. Statements such as this are all the more annoying when they can be disproved in about two seconds simply by looking at the listings on Amazon.com. Anyway, the lapse is forgivable, in this case, because that earlier recording is long out of print and the present release features a much better performance. Still, it’s always good to double-check these things, if only to maintain one’s credibility with hard-core collectors, who are the people most likely to be interested in this repertoire.
In its suite form NobilissimaRead more Visione, Hindemith’s ballet about St. Francis of Assisi, consists of five numbers out of a total of eleven. The Introduction and Rondo actually takes two sections from the ballet’s later stages: Meditation and The Wedding with Poverty. The March and Pastoral comes from the middle: the same march, and the Appearance of the Three Women, while the passacaglia concludes both the suite and the complete ballet, in the latter as The Songs of Praise of the Creatures Begin. The entire work plays for about forty five minutes (in this performance), and it deserves to be heard whole–it is very beautiful, sort of an apotheosis of the mature Hindemith’s individual lyricism.
Whether it works as a ballet is another matter, and one which need not concern us. As a concert piece, it is totally viable in terms of length, thematic content, and scheme of contrasts. Schwarz’s performance is markedly superior to Rickenbacher’s. Just compare Schwarz’s “Wedding with Poverty” to Rickenbacher’s comparatively droopy, bland version, and you’ll get the picture. I suppose you could say that Schwarz’s is the more “balletic” interpretation, but its characteristic emphasis on lively tempos, transparent textures, and strong rhythms serves the music best in any context, and the Seattle Symphony plays very well.
The Five Pieces for String Orchestra make an interesting coupling. Arranged from Hindemith’s teaching works, they are designed to acquaint students with modern harmony while remaining easy to play, and they accomplish this goal admirably (meaning Hindemith does not pull any punches). They are not major works, but like all of his music they are well-crafted, and in any event more substantial that Rickenbacher’s coupling, the brief but charming Suite of French Dances. Fine sonics make this a valuable addition to the Hindemith discography, restoring a major and unjustly neglected work to the catalog.
Not a First For SchwarzNovember 14, 2014By Alan B. (Land O Lakes, FL)See All My Reviews"Despite the hype, the complete Nobilissima has had a prior recording under Rickenbacker. Between the two I would give the nod to the earlier performance, although this one will do just fine if you cannot obtain that."Report Abuse
UNDISCOVERED HINDEMITHSeptember 30, 2014By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL)See All My Reviews"This is a major discovery---a ballet by Hindemith, perhaps more to be listened to than to be danced, unless one could resurrect some of the stars of the New York City Ballet of years past. I heard this on my favorite Classical Masterpieces channel a little while ago, and I was fascinated by the way the three movements of the now-familiar suite which I had heard so many times were now an integral part of a complete ballet score. It was a revelation, and also a look ahead at several of his more recent works like the Symphonia Serena and the 1946 Piano Concerto which I had performed several times. Ah, Hindemith---you never cease to amaze and delight this one-time musician and forever music lover. And the Seattle Symphony is no slouch when it comes to playing this stuff."Report Abuse