Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis; Suite 1922

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Hindemith
WORKS: Ludus Tonalis; Suite 1922
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 82564 63412-2
In Ludus Tonalis, Hindemith takes

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Bach’s Kunst der Fuge as a model for

a tour of the tonal cosmos: of the

gravitational forces, as he understood

them, holding all the keys together.

Applying Baroque polyphonic

skills to 20th-century vocabulary, he

produces a sequence that contrasts

the strict counterpoint and many

voices of fugue with a kaleidoscope

of character pieces. Symmetry is

imposed by the bookending Prelude

and Postlude: the Postlude is the

Prelude backwards and upside-down.

There are opportunities in plenty for

bravura playing, but the challenge is

to make none of this sound dry and

bring out the humanity innate in

even the most abstract movements.

Berezovsky seems to me only

partially successful. His technique

throughout is sparkling, on a

par with Olli Mustonen’s Decca

recording; but where Mustonen

sometimes over-characterised with

wilful distortion, Berezovsky seems

somewhat unengaged and superficial

until something clicks into place

round about No. IX, the scampering

‘Interludium quartum’. Thereafter

matters are much improved, and I

admired the eloquence Berezovsky

brings to the great slow numbers XV

and XXV, and his mercurial despatch

of the faster ones, though his touch is

on occasion a little on the heavy side.

The coupling, the early, dissonant

and jazz-influenced suite 1922 is

a perfect foil to the polyphonic

philosophizing of 20 years later. Here

Berezovsky is flamboyant to say the

least, with an uproarious account of

the ‘Shimmy’ movement. However

John McCabe presents the same

coupling in his version for Hyperion,

and in both works he shows greater

warmth and, it seems to me, a closer

involvement with the music. Even

so the account of Ludus Tonalis

which has most to offer, intellectual,

emotional and spiritual, remains

Bernard Roberts’s magnificent

Nimbus recording of 1995.

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Calum MacDonald