WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Hindemith: Messe, Apparebit Repentina Dies / Creed, Swr Vokalensemble Stuttgart

Hindemith / Swr Vokalensemble Stuttgart / Creed
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93295  
Composer:  Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

HINDEMITH Apparebit repentina dies1. Six Chansons. Lieder nach alten Texten, Op. 33. Messe Marcus Creed, cond; SWR Vocal Ens & 1Stuttgart Brass Ens HÄNSSLER 93.295 (67: 42 Text and Translation)

Hindemith’s compositions for unaccompanied choir remain among his least performed Read more works. Part of it may be due to the composer’s somewhat undeserved reputation for emotional austerity (whereas in truth he is an instance of still waters that run deep). Part of it likely is owed to the long-running hostility of an academic musical establishment, dominated by acolytes of dodecaphony, against a composer who doggedly insisted upon tonality as a fundamental necessity for musical composition. Finally, part of it surely stems from the sheer technical difficulty of the larger-scale choral works, such as the Apparebit and the Mass presented here. Fortunately, between the collapse of the once regnant academic orthodoxy on the one hand, and the emergence of an increasing number of top-notch choral ensembles on the other, recordings such as this now provide opportunities for these works to obtain the hearings they deserve. For anyone who has heard them, there can be no doubt that these are neglected masterpieces. Among his manifold talents, Hindemith was a musicologist with a deep interest in Renaissance choral literature; he conducted the Yale Collegium Musicum as a member of the university’s faculty, and with that group made LPs (very scarce) of works by Byrd, de Monte, Dufay, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Jacobus Handl, Lassus, Le Jeune, Palestrina, and Perotin. The contrapuntal techniques of pre-baroque choral compositions are a distinguishing characteristic of all of Hindemith’s works for choral ensembles.

The Apparebit repentina dies dates from1947, when the composer was at the peak of his reputation and creative powers. It was commissioned by Harvard University, and premiered by members of that institution’s Collegiate Chorale and members of the Boston Symphony brass section. The Latin text, by an anonymous seventh-century author, consists of 23 couplets constructed as an abecedarium—a poem in which each couplet begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. Drawing upon imagery in the gospels and the Book of Revelation, it creates a portrait of the Day of Judgment similar to that in the later and better-known Dies irae. The brass choir, consisting of two trumpets, four horns, three trombones, and tuba, opens the work with a fugal fanfare and reappears periodically throughout. Hindemith divides the poem into four parts: The first depicts the overall nature of the apocalyptic hour of doom; the second features a dialogue between God as judge and the two groups of human souls to appear before him, the blessed and the damned; the third describes the respective fates of the two groups; and the brief concluding fourth section admonishes sinners to flee evil and embrace righteousness. Throughout the composer makes imaginative use of his forces. For example, in the second section the declarations of God are sung by bass male voices, and the responses of mankind by the female sections of the choir; in the third section, the music for the damned consists of shorter, abrupt phrases punctuated with discords, whereas that for the blessed is comprised of more lyrical, flowing lines.

The Six Chansons from 1939 and the six Lieder nach alten Texten (Songs on Old Texts) from 1923–25 both represent Hindemith in a lighter vein. Both works are sets of madrigals; the chansons set poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (also the source of the composer’s Das Marienleben song cycle), whereas the Lieder draw upon texts from medieval and 16th-century sources. Even though they fall on either side of Hindemith’s major stylistic shift from Die neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity) and Gebrauchsmusik (Utilitarian Music) to his modern neoclassical and neobaroque idioms, they share many stylistic similarities. Each of these 12 miniatures captures its respective subject matter with delicacy and wit, ranging in mood from the contemplative and pensive to the satirical and boisterous. Both sets are written at a level of ability within the technical compass of well-trained amateur choirs.

The Mass from 1963 was Hindemith’s last completed work; he conducted the premiere at a church in Vienna on November 12, 1963, only six weeks before his death from pancreatitis. Raised as a nominal Protestant, he never formally embraced any particular religious creed as an adult. Nonetheless, he made clear his continual preoccupation with musical composition as a profoundly spiritual and ethical enterprise that seeks to shape rightly human minds and hearts. Also, his wife, Gertrude, was a devout Roman Catholic, and is believed to have exercised a substantial influence upon him in such matters in his later years. This is an extremely complex score, dominated by various forms of counterpoint (both free and imitative), including sections of quadruple counterpoint. Those such as myself who love and collect Renaissance Mass settings will find in this work a masterfully updated realization of that musical tradition.

Conductor Marcus Creed is a byword for superb choral performances, and his work here with the SWR Vocal Ensemble of Stuttgart that he has led for the last decade is no exception. These are sterling performances of masterworks that demand inclusion in the standard choral repertoire; the choral singing is exemplary in every way, and the brass section of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony performs with power and precision. This release is all the more important because there are so few alternatives for these works. There is only one other version of the Apparebit currently in print, and it is not competitive with this one. For the other works, the major recordings at present are:

(1) A 1994 Globe CD by the Netherlands Chamber Choir under Uwe Gronostay, which couples the Six Chansons and the Mass with six of the 12 Madrigals from 1958 and the Four Male Choruses (see the positive review by James H. North in 18:4);

(2) A 1996 Chandos release of the Lieder, the Mass, and six of the 12 Madrigals, by the Danish National Radio Choir under Uwe Gronostay (see the negative review by James H. North in 19:5);

(3) A 1996 Wergo disc by the Berlin Radio Choir under Stefan Parkman, on which the Six Chansons and Lieder are paired with the complete set of the 12 Madrigals and nine brief vocal canons. This issue has no review in the Fanfare Archive; the choir sings very well, but it has a very different sound, using the pure or “straight” tone favored by ecclesiastical choirs.

Hänssler provides clear, spacious recorded sound, complete German-English texts, and substantial program notes. In short, this magnificent release has “Want List 2013 Candidate” stamped all over it, and is urgently and enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
Read less

Works on This Recording

Mass by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1963; USA 
Chansons (6) by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Germany 
Apparebit repentina dies by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947 
Lieder nach alten Texten, Op. 33 by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Resurrecting a hitherto unavailable masterpiece March 29, 2013 By Martin Selbrede (Round Rock, TX) See All My Reviews "First things first. Hindemith's powerful Apparebit repentina dies from 1947 has been unfairly lost in obscurity. The last major recording of it was the vinyl version on Mace Records with choral pioneer Clytus Gottwald conducting his Stuttgart Schola Cantorum (as I examine my LP I see no date of issue anywhere). Gottwald coupled the Apparebit with Hindemith's final work, his a capella Mass from 1963. (Gottwald's handiwork with other composers is already familiar to anyone who's listened to the choral sections in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Gottwald retired in 1988, and the Stuttgart Schola Cantorum closed up shop in 1990. The Hindemith recordings had been out of print well before that. A digital recording of Hindemith's 1963 Mass appeared in 1996, with Der Junge Chor Aachen conducted by Fritz ter Wey on the CPO label (the performances were recorded 3 years earlier). This brought at least one of these lost works back to life in a strong version. Recording for Wergo, the Rundfunkchor Berlin has issued versions of the minor choral works featured on the CD we're reviewing here (the Six Chansons and the Lieder Nach ALten Texten Op. 33, conducted by Stefan Parkman and Robin Gritton respectively). But still: no Apparebit repentina dies to be found... ... Until March 26, 2013, when Hanssler Classic released this CD. And the wait was worth it. The state-of-the-art engineering, the sonics, the gorgeous performances, all cause these works to shine -- especially the Apparebit, with its beautiful brass punctuations and underscores intertwined with the choir so effectively and movingly. And small wonder that conductor Marcus Creed does so well with these works with the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart: this group is regarded as the heir-apparent to Gottwald's Stuttgart choral force. If any choral group SHOULD have resurrected the Apparebit, this was the logical one to do so (aided by ten members of the brass section of the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR). For all the works recorded here (Apparebit, the two song cycles, and the Mass), this is now the definitive version (pace, Rundfunkchor Berlin!). There's not a single mediocre performance on the album: all works are delivered with conviction, and it is hard to imagine them sounding any better than they do under Creed's baton (or hands, if he shuns batons as most choral conductors do). Yes, I know: Ireland's Chetham School of Music issued a 2007 recording of the Apparebit, which popped up on the US radar some time last year. That recording should not be the go-to version for a major piece missing from the recorded repertoire (with all due respect to the students at Chetham). Moreover, that recording was driven by wind ensemble considerations, not choral considerations (it was part of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles' annual event). Setting aside such performance considerations, the sonics and engineering don't compare to this new Hannsler release. Hannsler's couplings make more sense for a serious release as well (namely, other Hindemith masterpieces; compare to the Chetham's couplings with composers Phibbs and Putz -- and no, I'm not making up those names). Highly recommended, 10 out of 10 stars (on a ten-star scale) on all counts. Creed's forces navigate the difficulties of Hindemith's Mass effortlessly, to stunning effect, and bring the long-forgotten Apparebit back to the prominence it deserves." Report Abuse
Review This Title