Dvorák; Hindemith

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COMPOSERS: Dvorák; Hindemith
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (New World); Klaviermusik mit Orchester, Op. 29
PERFORMER: Leon Fleisher (piano); Curtis SO/Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1141-2

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The Symphony Orchestra of Philadelphia’s renowned Curtis Institute of Music may be a largely student body, but it plays with a panache that some professional orchestras might envy and the young players turn in a gutsy, full-blooded reading of Dvoπák’s Symphony From the New World under Christoph Eschenbach’s firm direction. The sound is a little congested in the heavier climaxes but this is a perfectly competitive version.

The chief interest on this recording, however, lies in Hindemith’s recently-rediscovered Klaviermusik mit Orchesta of 1923, commissioned by the left-handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who also commissioned such gems as the Ravel Left-Hand Concerto and Britten’s left-hand Diversions.

Yet he never played Hindemith’s work (Prokofiev’s Fourth Concerto was similarly spurned) although he jealously reserved all performance rights to himself. The score only resurfaced in 2002, and this is its world premiere recording.

The Klaviermusik, in essence a four-movement concerto, proves to be no mere curiosity but vintage Hindemith of its period, close kin to the classic Kammermusik for piano and 12 instruments: it’s brash, spiky, furiously rhythmic, highly inventive, in a mechanistic neo-Baroque idiom occasionally leavened with cheeky hints of jazz.

The breathless toccata style lets up only in the third movement, a coolly beautiful invention for piano and solo woodwind over an ostinato bass. Leon Fleisher, who not so long ago regained the use of his right hand after losing it for many years, is the appropriate, highly agile soloist.

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The orchestra, too, copes well with Hindemith’s spare but relentlessly busy scoring, including a large percussion battery. It’s something of an odd coupling, then: perhaps the Dvoπák is meant to pull in the punters, but the Hindemith is what makes the disc very special. Calum MacDonald