WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/Ingo Metzmacher
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55254 2 DDD
One of the most significant German symphonists of the century, Karl Amadeus Hartmann spent the Second World War in ‘internal exile’ in Bavaria, painfully refining his individual language in large symphonic works that lamented the horrors of the Nazi Reich. Afterwards, he suppressed most of them, or recomposed them in his postwar series of numbered symphonies: thus the two-movement No. 3 (1949) derives from two wartime symphonies entitled Klagegesang (Song of Lamentation) and Sinfonia tragica.
Yet No. 3 is itself one of Hartmann’s finest scores, whose yearning introduction gives way to a furious ‘virtuoso fugue’ for full orchestra before a wonderfully expressive Adagio-finale, in the tradition of Bruckner and Mahler, but thoroughly contemporary in sound. Ferdinand Leitner’s Bavarian Radio performance on Wergo remains a benchmark for its majestic architecture, but Metzmacher, served here by a better recording, discovers a wider range of moods and brings out more of the fascinating play of colours and timbres, even if in the end one feels he loses the larger design among the proliferating detail.
The Ives is an imaginative coupling. Ives himself was unhappy with the uncharacteristic strictness of its contrapuntal devices, yet it still contains some of his most moving and powerful music. Were there no rival, Metzmacher’s accurate and well-played version would be most welcome; but tempi, sense of direction and above all atmosphere are distinctly under-powered compared to Stokowski on Sony. Calum MacDonald