Hindemith: Kammermusiken No. 1; Kammermusiken No. 4; Kammermusiken No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Kammermusiken No. 1; Kammermusiken No. 4; Kammermusiken No. 5
PERFORMER: Kolja Blacher (violin), Wolfram Christ (viola); Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56160 2
With his Kammermusiken, Hindemith honed his alternative attitudes towards a renewed musical life, one where such ‘functional’ music (so-called Gebrauchsmusik) would bypass the institutionalised concert-and-critic culture he so disliked. After the frenetic Kammermusik No. 1 (1922) – convincingly futuristic in Abbado’s reading – Hindemith’s later compositions in this series revitalised Baroque concertante textures and expressiveness. His vision of the 18th century is always close at hand in these works and both these discs clearly achieve the right balance between punchy articulation and lyrical intensity.

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The Sixth for viola d’amore – an instrument which Hindemith thought possessed ‘indescribable sweetness and softness’ – is of especial interest. Dean’s performance captures the work’s intimacy and, with ethereal note-spinning, its unfettered passion; Abbado’s Kammermusik No. 4 conveys similar qualities.

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The Seventh, dating from 1927, was written for the inauguration of the organ at the South-West German Radio, Frankfurt. It also balances line (in the second movement) with momentum (in the fugal ensembles of the third movement) but, by employing the wind and brass as the main accompaniment (doubtless for their ability to articulate and sustain in a radio broadcast), offers the organ soloist an unambivalent and characterful partnership. The performance of the late and uplifting Organ Concerto (on a neo-classical instrument built in a rather dry acoustic) grasps Hindemith’s sense of soloist/ensemble integration supremely well. Andrew McCrea