Konzertmusik for Brass and Strings, Op.50
Symphony 'Mathis der Maler'
Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 15 & 16 December 2012 at City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow
CD No: HYPERION CDA68006 Duration: 66 minutes Reviewed: December 2013
Hindemith – Konzertmusik, Mathis der Maler, Weber Metamorphosis – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins [Hyperion]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
December 2013 brings fifty years since Paul Hindemith died, not that you’d know it from concert programmes. Fortunately some record companies are doing him proud, not least Hyperion, and not only this excellent release but also those devoted to his Piano Sonatas (Markus Becker, CDA67977) and Violin Sonatas (Tanja Becker-Bender & Péter Nagy, CDA68014).
Equally recommendable is this disc of three masterpieces for orchestra. Konzertmusik for Brass and Strings (1930), written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is proud and exhilarating from the off, bursting with memorable ideas, deeply and intensely beautiful. Martyn Brabbins steers members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra through a superbly trenchant and lyrical reading; the brass is both sonorous and gleaming and the strings are rich and deep. Mike Clements has engineered wonderful sound and Mike George has set the highest production values. It all helps to really appreciate a superb piece of music, full of passion and energy, here given with a full tank and total clarity.
I would have placed the Weber Metamorphosis next, and I did indeed skip to track 6. This witty and colourful piece, from 1943, has only one potential problem, its cumbersome title. That aside it’s a terrific score, full of life, swing and loveliness. The first movement is here easygoing and springy, vividly detailed, followed by the joyous syncopation of the ‘Turandot’ second with its climactic percussion. By contrast the Andantino offers something sultry and seductive and the finale marches flamboyantly. My yardstick is Claudio Abbado’s brilliant LSO taping for Decca, which Brabbins comes damn close to matching.
As for Mathis der Maler, the Symphony and Opera written concurrently during 1933 and 1934 – the former peals into our consciousness from the off and develops a stimulation, splendour and spirituality that is intoxicating. The painter in question is the sixteenth-century Matthias Grünewald, a war-mongering artist who returns to his trade. Whether texturally busy or pastorally simple, the respective opening movements (you may find a correspondence with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in the second) lead to the great finale, ‘Versuchung des heiligen Antonius’ (Temptation of St Anthony), music of great drama, power and mysticism, culminating in the transcendental coda, gloriously brassy, and given full vent here (Brabbins emulating his Hyperion accounts of Walton's Symphonies) and on a par with Eugene Ormandy’s marvellous Philadelphia Orchestra version.
Hey, what a package! Anyone new to Hindemith, please start here. Blessed be the names Hindemith and Hyperion.