HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber1. Violin Concerto1. Concert Music for Strings and Brass2 • Christoph Eschenbach, cond; Midori (vn); NDR SO • ONDINE 12142 (67:41) Live: Hamburg 110/24 & 26/2012; 212/23/2011Read more
Symphonic Metamorphosis, written for the New York Philharmonic in 1943, was designed to exploit the technical virtuosity of that band and of American orchestras in general. It was so successful in that respect that all its finest recorded performances have been by American ensembles; even the composer with the Berlin Philharmonic could not match Szell’s Clevelanders, Ormandy’s Philadelphians, and—above all—Bernstein’s New Yorkers. Well, the NDR Symphony has broken the sound barrier: This is a sensational performance, right up there with the best. Tempos are lively, the playing crisp, and the music sizzles. There are a few moments in the opening Allegro that are so fast that the orchestra can barely manage, but that’s fine; being out there on the edge is part of the thrill. All is not perfect: There are some odd woodwind balances where one line or the other sticks out, but a sense of excitement permeates every phrase. Brilliantly recorded sound helps; we can hear more of Hindemith’s complex score than ever before. Eschenbach’s Andantino doesn’t hold together as well as Bernstein’s, but there are many beautiful details, particularly from the solo flute. To top it all off, the NDR Symphony nails the final coda as only Bernstein had done before,
This Concert Music is also very fine, although in different ways. The performance may not capture the work’s rock-like solidity as well as Steinberg’s Boston Symphony or Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic, but it makes up for that with its pure, shining brass—aided by Ondine’s clean, wide-open sound. The string playing in the Finale’s opening fugal passages is exemplary, at a ferociously fast tempo. Kudos to the NDR Symphony.
After such excellence, this performance of the 1939 Violin Concerto is a disappointment. Many critics disapproved of Hindemith’s 1962 recording with David Oistrakh; I’ve never understood why. This is a blockbuster of a Concerto; composer/conductor, soloist, and the London Symphony treat it as such, while not neglecting its many felicities. Oistrakh’s playing is athletic, beautiful, and ever so expressive; it is one of his great records. Isaac Stern and Leonard Bernstein match that performance, but Columbia/Sony’s sound from Manhattan Center doesn’t pick up the orchestra as well as Decca’s gorgeous analog stereo from a West Hampstead studio. Eschenbach’s orchestra realizes many fine details, but the work’s overall grandeur is missing. Midori’s delicate, focused playing does her honor—she is exquisite in the slow movement—but it too misses the point. Still, this is a wonderful disc, a strong candidate for Want List 2014.
Concerto for Violinby Paul Hindemith Performer:
North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1939; Switzerland
Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: I. Allegro
Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: II. Scherzo (Turandot): Moderato - Lebhaft
Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: III. Andantino
Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: IV. Marsch
Violin Concerto: I. Massig bewegte Halbe
Violin Concerto: II. Langsam
Violin Concerto: III. Lebhaft
Konzertmusik, Op. 50, "Bostoner Sinfonie": Part I: Massig schnell, mit Kraft - Sehr breit, aber stets fliessend
Konzertmusik, Op. 50, "Bostoner Sinfonie": Part II: Lebhaft - Langsam - Im ersten Zeitmass
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
A mix of the enjoyable and slightly eclecticNovember 9, 2013By Warren Harris See All My Reviews"The music on this disc consists of three works of Paul Hindemith, the earliest being from 1930, and the latest having been written in 1943. The oldest work is presented first, the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by C.M. von Weber, a work in four movements that features delightful interplay between the various sections of the orchestra that is based on pieces of Webers for piano for four hands. The well-written liner notes indicate that Hindemith and his wife would have been familiar with several piano four-hands pieces of Webers since they played them at home. This composition is one of Hindemiths most popular orchestral works, and it is a pleasure to listen to. What you would expect to be the highlight of the CD is the Konzert for Violine und Orchester featuring Midori on her amazing del Gesu violin. Her playing is virtuosic and warm, but the piece itself does not have the form where the soloist and orchestra are having a conversation rather, the composer set them against each other, but not in a manner in which they play over each other. Hindemith makes sure that instruments that would drown out the solo violin are not playing while the violin is, so the piece has a somewhat dynamic clarity in which the listener can hear every nuance. However, the work itself was soimewhat less than satisfying for me due to the constant feeling of contrast. That being said, Midori is amazing no surprise there! The final work on the disc is the Konzertmusik for Streichorchester und Blechblaser, Op. 50 in which Hindemiths skills writing horn music are on display right form the get-go, the interplay between the horns and the rest of the orchestra being done in a way that is again both contrasting and partnering. The recording quality of this piece is particularly impressive, as the dynamic range explored by the orchestra is wide. As for the piece itself, I found the Weber work to be more aesthetically pleasant, but this work was intellectually stimulating. The NDR Sinfonieorchester sounds fantastic, and the recording captures the nuances that these marvelous musicians bring to life. That being said, Hindemiths works are certainly not of the easy listening type for many. Recommended.if you like Hindemiths music and you are not off-put by pieces that tend to have a more contrasting style."Report Abuse
Fire, charm and charisma from MidoriOctober 12, 2013By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"Hindemith's music has never really caught on with classical music audiences in the same way as contemporary composers like Vaughan Williams, Copland or Villa-Lobos. A few pieces are popular because they give orchestras a chance to show off their virtuosity. The Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Weber is one of these, and it plays that role on this new CD from Ondine. Conductor Christoph Eschenbach puts the NDR SinfonieOrchester through its paces in an exciting live recording of the Metamorphoses. Though perhaps not always at the same high level as two famous live recordings by Claudio Abbado and Leonard Bernstein, this is a satisfying version that's easy to recommend. The Violin Concerto of 1939 is a solid, and sometimes stolid, work from Hindemith's middle period. The great violinist Midori provides charisma, fire and charm, all of which are often in short supply in Hindemith recordings, giving the piece its best advocacy on disc. One hopes that other violinists will follow her lead in performing and recording such an interesting concerto. The third piece on the CD is the Konzertmusik from 1930. When Hindemith heard Koussevitsky conduct the work in 1938 in Boston, he said 'They played it with absolute perfection.' I think he would have said the same about this excellent recording from Hamburg."Report Abuse
Just when I thought I was outSeptember 29, 2013By Joe S. See All My Reviews"I feel like Michael Corleone when I listen to Hindemith. Sometimes his almost-constant ending of pieces with a major chord, to me anyway, can ring insincere and betray a lack of commitment to his own materials. His harmonies are often more weird than interesting, and his quartal melodies can just be too much for me sometimes. But then sometimes something just clicks. Kleine Kammermusik- the contrapuntal lines, the weirder cadences and accessible motives. Symphonic Metamorphosis- the orchestral colors, classical themes accompanied by his weirder harmonies Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. The North German Radio Symphony Orchestras new Hindemith album under Christopher Eschenbach encompasses this conflict for me. The first piece Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by C.M. von Weber, represents the high point of the album for me, and though the placement of this piece first is great to rope in the casual listener, they might feel a little short-changed by the rest of the album. I liked most of the album, but someone unfamiliar with Hindemith expecting a whole album of stuff like Symphonic Metamorphosis might be disappointed. At times I hoped the filigree in the strings would come out better, especially in the fourth movement, and sometimes the mix just got overblown with bombast, but all in all I really liked this version. The Violin Concerto is a step back from what I like, but I could see people getting into it. I cant help but think about Hindemiths concept of Gebrauchmusik, music for practical use, when listening to this piece, and wonder if its always the best thing: This is a violin concerto. This is the part thats really high. This is the part where the soloist plays parallel octaves. This is the stupidly-hard-yet-not-gratifying cadenza. Still, the piece is admittedly well-constructed, and Midori absolutely SHREDS it to bits. As much as it left me a little cold, I will need to study this piece more. Konzertmusik sits somewhere in the middle of the previous pieces for me. Some really great crunchy harmonies are there, but you lose the orchestral color without a wind section to the orchestra. The themes are a bit simpler than the Violin Concerto, but certainly not as accessible as Symphonic Metamorphosis. This piece straddles my taste for Hindemith- theres stuff I love, and theres stuff I just dont get at all. But thats great! Its what art is supposed to do. When I listen to Hindemith I get simultaneously invigorated and frustrated, and he makes me want to write music of my own. So really how bad can it be?"Report Abuse
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