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
Average Customer Review: ( 4 Customer Reviews )
GOOD PERFORMANCE, BUT...October 3, 2014By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL)See All My Reviews"The Hindemith Violin Concerto is a work that requires, above all, two things: careful balancing, and a soloist with a strong upper register. Both of these were not exactly in evidence in this performance; all too often the orchestra, particularly the brass, overpowered the soloist---the only time I could really hear her was in the third-movement cadenza---and when she got into the upper ranges she all but disappeared. I have two other recordings which I like much better, because the balance is taken into consideration and the soloists are much stronger overall---namely, the original recording with Joseph Fuchs and Sir Eugene Goossens, and particularly the more recent one with Isaac Stern and Leonard Bernstein conducting the N.Y. Philharmonic."Report Abuse
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