Hartmann/Messiaen

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COMPOSERS: Hartmann/Messiaen
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/Ingo Metzmacher
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54916 2 DDD
The Bavarian composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-63) provides a link in Germanic musical history between the generation of Webern (with whom he studied) and that of Henze. His Symphony No. 4 for string orchestra has faint echoes of Mahler and Britten, coupled with a seriousness and spiritual fervour of its own. Although written before the Second World War, it was first performed in 1948 and is very much a work of its time by a German composer untarnished by Nazi sympathies and concerned, in his own words, with giving his ‘humanity-oriented view of life’ expression in art. This recording is the first in a planned cycle of all eight symphonies from Metzmacher, who conducts a tautly structured performance, with the strings of the Bamberg SO producing a lustrous sound.

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The apt coupling is a spiritual work of a different hue that turns to the orchestra’s fine wind and percussion departments. Messiaen’s hymn (the title translates as ‘And I look forward to the resurrection of the dead’) was written as a memorial to the dead of the two world wars. Characteristic ecstatic harmonies, birdsong and profound gong and brass comments evoke his detailed programme describing stages on the road to salvation. Superbly recorded, Metzmacher’s account brings out all the latent colour in Messiaen’s music: its resonant tintinnabulations, beautifully placed woodwind twitterings and pungent chords. Matthew Rye