Hindemith: Kammermusik NO.7

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Kammermusik No. 7; Kleine Kammermusik für fünf Bläser No. 2; Organ Sonatas Nos 1-3; Two Pieces for Organ
PERFORMER: Daniel Hyde (organ); Britten Sinfonia/Benjamin Bayl
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 159

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It’s unusual and refreshing to view Hindemith through the prism of his organ music, and the lion’s share of the honours on this stimulating disc from the Britten Sinfonia goes to the excellent Daniel Hyde. His rhythmic liveliness and innate sense of the structure of each movement is an asset throughout, and the new organ at Jesus College, Cambridge ideally suits the lean contrapuntal idiom of these works.

The core of Hindemith’s organ output is the three sonatas of 1937-40, composed as he was formulating his mature theories of composition in opposition to Schoenberg: the inventive First, the lighter, capricious Second, and the bucolic Third based on old German folksongs. There are classic recordings of this triptych by Lionel Rogg and Piet Kee, but Hyde gives it a more exciting contemporary sound, making us wonder why these pieces aren’t heard more often.

The early Romantic-Impressionist Zwei Stücke (1918), receiving their world premiere recording, sound like a weird amalgam of Reger and Debussy and remind us how quickly Hindemith developed his mature manner, already on display in the wonderfully deft and witty Kleine Kammermusik of 1923 for wind quintet. (The ensemble of human wind-players contrasts neatly with the mechanical breath of the organ.)

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However, the triumph of this disc is an extremely exciting account of Hindemith’s first organ concerto, the 1927 Kammermusik No. 7, with its brass-heavy chamber orchestra, by turns brazen, beefy and baleful. Throughout, incisive rhythmic articulation and clear delineation of line allows the music’s essential vitality – animal as well as intellectual – to come through with the greatest possible impact. Highly recommended. Calum MacDonald