Hindemith: Choral works

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
WORKS: Choral works
PERFORMER: Berlin Radio Choir/Robin Gritton
Hindemith wrote for voices with the same grace and efficiency he brought to all other media; on the whole, his choral music shows the most humane side of his compositional omnicompetence. This useful anthology of a cappella pieces concentrates on the music of the Thirties, some showing Hindemith’s principled engagement with contemporary problems in settings of Brecht, Whitman, Nietzsche and Gottfried Benn. Expressively, the programme ranges from the deeply serious, ecologically as well as politically prescient 1929 Brecht setting ‘Über das Frühjahr’ to the cheerful neo-medieval Lieder nach alten Texten and the virtuosic set of choral variations on an ‘Old Dance Song’. Written in Hindemith’s Swiss exile in 1939, that piece is contemporary with the powerfully searching choruses for male voices, possibly the most impressive music here. The disc concludes with some occasional canons written as presents and greetings to friends, and the English-language ballad ‘The Demon of the Gibbet’ (1949), written for the Yale Glee Club during a 90-minute train ride. The Canons and the Op. 33 Lieder were recorded in 1994, the rest of the programme in 1999, but there is no discernible difference in acoustic – the sound is excellent, as one would expect from Berlin Radio, and the performances sympathetic and idiomatic, though I occasionally felt the individual pieces might have been more vividly characterised. Calum MacDonald