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Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis / Janowski, WDR Symphony

Release Date: 02/16/2018 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186672  
Composer:  Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Paul Hindemith belongs to the most original and interesting composers of the twentieth century. Once described by the Boston Globe as a “20th-century Brahms”, Hindemith wrote music that is Modernist in its rhythmic audacity and colourful orchestration, but simultaneously inspired by Classical forms and styles. The WDR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Marek Janowski provide a fascinating interpretation of three orchestral works that display an irrepressible, almost wild passion for music-making that is omnipresent throughout Hindemith’s oeuvre. In the Concert Music for Strings and Brass, also known as “Boston Symphony,” Hindemith invigorates the century-old concertato style of competing instrument groups in twentieth-century fashion by Read more utilizing unusual ensemble combinations. He extracted the Nobilissima Visione suite from an eponymous “dance legend” on Saint Francis’s vision of the three allegories of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The piece represents the violent battle in which Francis is wounded, but most of the music is serene, focusing on the noblest vision that the wounded Francis subsequently experiences. The Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber were also conceived as a ballet, but eventually materialized as a concert piece. Hindemith based the work on a collection of melodies that Carl Maria von Weber once wrote for a theatre performance of Friedrich Schiller’s Turandot. Weber’s rather simple chinoiserie dating from 1809 is driven forward relentlessly by Hindemith’s rhythms and jazzy harmonies. The piece epitomizes Hindemith’s capacity to reconcile the old and new in a highly personal musical language.



Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis is the most immediately attractive of his works. Its biggest performance challenge is remaining true to the score's written-in clarity, and it's one met by Janowski and the orchestra here. Overall, this is a revealing combination of absorbing works.
– Gramophone Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Nobilissima Visione by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; Switzerland 
Konzertmusik for Brass and Strings, Op. 50 by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; Germany 
Notes: aka: "Boston Symphony". 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Janowski livens up Hindemith March 29, 2018 By Art Music Lady See All My Reviews "Interestingly, each of the works on this CD present Hindemith in his most congenial and populist vein. The Concert Music for Strings and Brass, written in 1931, was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony, then celebrating its 50th anniversary; Noblissima Visione was commissioned by Leonide Massine in 1937 for a ballet based on, of all things, St. Francis of Assisi. The Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber began as a Massine commission in 1940, failed to gel as a ballet, and ended up being a concert piece finished in 1944, based on, as Hindemith put it, “natty pieces for piano duet.” It ended up being one of his most popular works, almost sounding like the then-modern American classical music of Walter Piston, Paul Creston and even Aaron Copland. Many years ago, in the latter days of his long career, Eugene Ormandy startled the musical world with a very good recording of the Symphonic Metamorphosis with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Janowski does him one better. His performance is more clearly etched, with outstanding orchestral detail and great drive and “lift” to the score. He also seems to revel more in Hindemith’s unusual harmonies: though the piece was based on Weber’s melodic line the underlying chords were not. In the third section, marked “Andantino,” Janowski really moves the music well despite the slower pace, and in the last movement the buzz of the bassoon underlying the winds is startlingly clear. The whole performance almost has the kind of drive and energy one associated with the late George Szell, but in comparing Janowski’s recording to Szell’s I still prefer this one. It’s less stiff and has far greater sound. By contrast, the music of Noblissima Visione is warm and rich, with softer orchestral colors and a more lyrical profile. In this work, too, Hindemith moves the harmony with the melodic line so that the two are organically connected. Each piece in this suite thus has its own specific feel and flow, the first (“Introduction and Rondo”) having an almost pastoral feel to it. In the second, “March and Pastorale,” Hindemith wrote a rather relaxed and jolly tune for the opening, which makes it seem an odd choice to represent the soldiers who purportedly attacked and wounded the young St. Francis, torturing him brutally. I really expected something closer to the kind of march that opens the Mahler Sixth Symphony. This one has a peppy double-time coda before the music slows down for the “Pastorale,” which actually sounds more unsettled and edgy tonally than the opening piece. The final “Passacaglia” moves at a nice medium-brisk pace; this represented St. Francis’ “canticle of the sun,” and contains 21 variations on a six-bar theme, ending with a tightly-written coda that crescendos to a blaze of glory. We end with the earliest piece composed of those here, the Concert Music for Strings and Brass. Personally, I have a hard time conceiving Koussevitzky, who was a pretty mediocre musician, conducting something this rhythmically modern and complex without messing it up (his recording of the Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition, which he also commissioned, is a real mess). Hindemith’s tight pacing, which incorporates many neoclassical rhythms, unsettled tonality and interesting counter-figures played by the high strings against the lower, would surely have taxed Koussevitzky beyond his pay grade. To be honest, I also have a hard time envisioning the typical Boston Symphony audience of 1931 sitting through this. Philadelphia, maybe; Stokowski conducted a lot of modern music there; but certainly not ultra-conservative Boston. Still, the music is excellent. Hindemith was able to avoid the trap of writing “celebratory” music that ended up being pompous or conceded too much to popular tastes. There are many highly creative moments in this score and its two long sections (nine and eight minutes, respectively) really jell into something quite meaty. Oddly, the music ends on a sort of Gershwin-like blues lick. Again Janowski finds a way of playing the music in as brisk a tempo as possible without ignoring the salient details in the score. In way, his conducting reminds me more of Czech conductors than Polish ones; there’s a high degree of similarity between this disc and the one of Karel An?erl conducting Josef Suk’s Asrael, which I reviewed last month. Janowski captures the mood of the music as well as its textural profile, combining these elements here as deftly as he has done in Wagner. --Lynn Rene Bayley, The Art Music Lounge" Report Abuse
 Deeply moving and profound March 5, 2018 By Dean Frey See All My Reviews "I've been listening to way more Paul Hindemith in the past couple of years. Some outstanding recent discs are driving this, but I went back to the composer himself conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1950s, from the 3 CD set from Deutsche Grammophon, to take a closer look at his orchestral music. What I heard there impressed me greatly, and surprised me more than a little. This is almost all really stellar music, and the old recordings still have the power to move one as much as all but the greatest composers of the 20th century. Now comes this new disc, just released, from Marek Janowski and the WDR Symphony Orchestra. This raises the bar even more, and not just with the improved sonics (to be sure, the old DGG recordings sounded better than one would expect). There's even more excitement and energy here, more warmth in Hindemith's reflective moments. This music isn't only "orchestral showpiece" level, as sparkly as it can be. This is at times deeply moving and profound. I highly recommend this excellent Pentatone release." Report Abuse
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