Notes and Editorial Reviews
William Steinberg expected to become music director of the Boston Symphony following the departure of Charles Munch and before record company politics tossed the ball to Erich Leinsdorf. In hindsight, everyone agrees that it was a terrible shame, though Leinsdorf was by no means the time-beating hack that his detractors sometimes suggest. In any case, Steinberg made only three recordings for DG with the Bostonians: Holst's The Planets, Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, and this one. All three are superb, but this one may be the most important if only because Hindemith has had so few really persuasive advocates over the years (Bernstein was another).
The BSO commissioned the Concert
Music for Strings and Brass, part of a long list of masterpieces written for the orchestra's 50th anniversary celebrations: Roussel's Third Symphony, Honegger's First, Prokofiev's Fourth, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Respighi's Metamorphoseon--the list makes imposing reading today. There have been other excellent recordings of the work, including Bernstein's and Ormandy's, but this one combines easeful virtuosity and rambunctious good humor with Hindemith's characteristic intellectual severity in a way that's quite special. So it is also with Mathis der Maler, a Steinberg specialty (he recorded it for EMI while in Pittsburgh) that captures the music's flow better than any other version. This is particularly true of the finale, offering excitement without a trace of that "jog-trot" effect that belabors so many other versions. The sonics also are pretty wonderful, then and now, warmly natural and glowing.
As a CD Steinberg's disc makes for a short playing time, and so DG thoughtfully couples the Barenboim/Benyamini Schwanendreher, also a very good performance of a work that has fallen into near total neglect. Despite being based on folk tunes, and its being one of the very few really good modern viola concertos, there's a certain clunky quality to the music. It ought to come across as humor, but more often it simply sounds awkward. Whether or not you regard this as part of the work's charm is very much a matter of personal taste. In any event, the humor certainly comes through here, and as a bonus addition to the Steinberg treasures it couldn't be more welcome. This disc is available through Arkivmusic.com's "on demand" program, and it belongs in every serious classical music collection.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Der Schwanendreher by Paul Hindemith
Daniel Benyamini (Viola)
Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1935; Germany
Symphony "Mathis der Maler" by Paul Hindemith
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Outstanding in Every Way September 18, 2015
By D. Eaton (New York, NY) See All My Reviews
"I know that Hindemith isn't everyone's cup of tea, but in his best pieces he is among the most important composers of the early 20th century (his moral lapses aside.) These are by far my favorite accounts of "Mathis der Maler" and the Konzertmusik, Op. 50. (I own 11 recorded versions of Mathis). The BSO is terrific and Steinberg is obviously an true believer in Hindemith. The sound is both sumptuous and detailed. A great CD!"