Notes and Editorial Reviews
A crackingly well-played programme of wind-orchestral works featuring premiere recordings of [piece] pieces by Ernst Toch and Boris Blacher, as well as Schoenberg's rarely heard Theme and Variations
Hindemith's 1951 Symphony for wind band is a lively and appealing score, which grew from an initial request for a march from the US Army Band. It's a true symphony, with sonata-form first movement, serious central march enclosing a fleet Scherzo, and fugal finale. The composer himself led the way in the recording studio with the Philharmonia in 1958 for EMI (2/91 - nla) ; the 1959 Berlin RSO performance on Orfeo is from a concert given a year later. Reynish does not quite rise to the composer's massiveness of sound, but his is a fine and very welcome new version with excellent ensemble and solo playing caught in Chandos's bright, warm sound.
Hartmann's Fifth Symphony (1950, but originating in a much-altered trumpet concerto from 1932) inhabits a Hindemithian sound world. The present version is better played and recorded than the Bavarian RSO account under Kubelik (Wergo), and is a match for Metzmacher and Bamberg (EMI).
Schoenberg's Theme and Variations (1943) should not to be confused with the brilliant Op 31 set. For a start, Op 43 is tonal, one of several such works Schoenberg wrote during his American exile to 'soften his image'. A fine piece, the seven variations and finale are very diverse in character. If not a major utterance, it is of more moment than either the Toch or Blacher novelties that frame it. Toch's Spiel (1926) is energetic, but its resonances of popular musics have a trivial edge. Blacher's Divertimento sounds almost trite but, bizarrely, was commissioned in 1936 for a Luftwaffe band that employed 'degenerate' saxophones. The performances are exemplary, beautifully phrased and balanced, and the sound is rich.
-- Guy Rickards, Gramophone [6/2000]