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Hindemith: Kammermusik Nos 1-3, etc

Various; Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra/Christoph Escehnbach (Ondine)

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Kammermusik Nos 1-3; Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24 No. 2
Christopher Park, Xi Zhai (piano), Bruno Philippe (cello); Kronberg Academy Soloists; Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra/Christoph Escehnbach
Ondine ODE 1341-2   68:07 mins


Few pieces open more scintillatingly than Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 1: typifying the composer’s 1920s style, it is music that combines a certain polyphonic objectivity with the high jinks of a hoped-for new world order.

Though translating literally as ‘chamber music’, the seven works in Hindemith’s Kammermusik series are mostly written for ensembles of chamber-orchestra size – the first is a suite for 12 instruments, the rest are mini-concertos – and represent a sort of Weimar-era answer to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. That Bachian energy is certainly felt in these performances by the young members of the Kronberg Academy Soloists together with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra under the baton of an experienced Hindemithian, Christoph Eschenbach.

Each player is treated as a soloist in the first of these works, and the Kronberg musicians – based near Hindemith’s native Frankfurt – relish their opportunities. The uproarious finale, at one point combining all 12 major keys at once, ends exuberantly with the (perhaps ominous) wail of a siren. The Kammermusik No. 2 features the piano and Christopher Park’s piquant playing sets the pulse; No. 3 is a mini cello concerto in which Bruno Philippe finds depth of feeling. The un-numbered Kleine Kammermusik, standing apart from the series, is written for standard wind quintet and the interplay of its instruments is in Hindemith’s characteristic witty vein. This music has been well recorded before, but the project (billed as Volume One, and thus promising a follow-up) looks to be as satisfying a set as any.


John Allison