Hindemith: Mathis der Maler

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Mathis der Maler
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio SO/Kubelík
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 640 7402 (1979)

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When Paul Hindemith’s intellectually ambitious Mathis der Maler was banned by the Nazis its premiere moved to Switzerland (Zurich, 1938). Challenging in its exploration of the dilemma of the artist in troubled times – the painter Matthias Grünewald’s life played out amid the religious and class conflicts of 16th-century Germany – it’s an uneven but worthwhile work. Rafael Kubelík’s 1977 Munich recording has its measure, even if not every role is ideally cast. James King is strong as Mathis’s patron, the liberal Cardinal Albrecht, and Urszula Koszut shines as the peasant girl Regina whom Mathis more or less adopts. But the plum of the set is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s deeply-felt performance of the title role, which is unlikely to be bettered. George Hall