Notes and Editorial Reviews
For those of you who missed this remarkable set the first time around, I offer this Brief History of Hindemith's Kammermusik 1-7 on CD. First, back in ancient times, there was a terrific set of LPs (on what then was Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) featuring performances by Ensemble 13 Baden-Baden. It was never released on CD--despite the fact that it has by far the best sounding siren at the conclusion of Kammermusik 1--and it always was very difficult to find in any but the most hard-core classical shops. It was not until the 1990s that the new technology caught up with these inventive, witty, caustic, and always entertaining works with the release of all seven, variously performed by Ensemble Modern
(RCA), Concerto Amsterdam (Teldec), and the present set on Decca. Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic followed a bit later with two single discs issued by a seemingly embarrassed EMI with as little fanfare as humanly possible.
Now this being modern music, and these being "major" labels, it goes without saying that these recordings had a shelf-life of about 15 minutes, assuming that they were ever made available here in the USA. Riccardo Chailly's set was, and by general consent it is considered to be the finest of the lot. Of course it helps to have the likes of pianist Ronald Brautigam, cellist Lynn Harrell, violinist Konstanty Kulka, and violist Kim Kashkashian to do the solo turns; but the real stars of the show are the wonderfully gifted and cultured musicians of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, who make Hindemith's most gawky counterpoint and acerbic harmony sound inevitable, graceful, and fluent.
Now they are back (at least as an import) at bargain price, and if you haven't heard these outstanding performances, you have perhaps another 15 minutes to correct that mistake before they disappear into oblivion once again. Doubtless the Abbado set, which also is quite good, will appear shortly as a "twofer" as well, but if you miss your chance with Chailly, don't say that I didn't warn you! [8/30/2003]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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