Hartmann: Symphony No. 2; Sinfonia tragica; Gesangsszene to Jean Giraudoux’s ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’

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COMPOSERS: Hartmann
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Sinfonia tragica; Gesangsszene to Jean Giraudoux’s ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’
PERFORMER: Siegmund Nimsgern (baritone)Bamberg SO/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1295-2 DDD
Born in Munich in 1905, Karl Amadeus Hartmann belonged to the forgotten generation of 20th-century German composers that was too young to be part of the Second Viennese School (though Hartmann studied during World War II with Webern) and too old to ally itself with the post-war avant-garde personified by Stockhausen. Many of Hartmann’s contemporaries were tainted by Nazi affiliations, but his steadfast opposition to totalitarianism gave him a profoundly significant role in the post-war reconstruction of German music, when he consistently championed the avant-garde.

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The significance of Hartmann’s own music is harder to define. The highly wrought accounts of these three works demonstrate his sense of control and architecture: each conveys a convincing and often powerful musical argument. But they also show how his music reflects other personalities than his own: there’s Mahler, Stravinsky and Bartók (with near quotes from all three in the Sinfonia tragica) as well as Schoenberg and Berg. The Sinfonia tragica, composed in 1940, was performed and published posthumously in 1989; the Second Symphony, a single, arcing slow movement, dates from 1946. The setting of Giraudoux’s Sodom and Gomorrah made for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau remained unfinished at Hartmann’s death in 1963; Zimmermann seems to have been the model for its frenzied declamation. In all three, though, Hartmann’s integrity and clarity of thought are never in doubt. Andrew Clements