Hindemith: Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50; Violin Concerto; Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50; Violin Concerto; Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber
PERFORMER: Leonidas Kavakos (violin); BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9903
First impressions of this CD are dismaying; but that’s entirely Hindemith’s fault for making the beginning of the Concert Music such a galumphing and charmless thing (it’s equally charmless in the San Francisco Symphony version on Decca, the main rival, but currently out of the catalogue). Fortunately things improve, and the slow movement develops a real expressive amplitude, but Hindemith does tend to score thickly, and I imagine this piece is a nightmare to balance in the concert hall (here the balance is suspiciously good, which suggests some discreet help from the recording engineer). This piece needs the sharpest articulation and phrasing, and on this score the San Francisco version wins by a short head. When it comes to the Violin Concerto, it’s hard for anyone to rival David Oistrakh’s version with the composer conducting (Decca). He has an unfair advantage in that he’s recorded very close, as was the fashion back in the early Sixties. The soloist in the new version, Leonidas Kavakos, is recorded at a natural distance, and once you’ve adjusted to that his performance appears extraordinarily good, more delicate in its rhythmic élan than Oistrakh. And the orchestral sound is much more subtle and soft-grained (as it is throughout the disc, which is a fine advertisement for Chandos’s ‘24 bit recording’). As for the Symphonic Metamorphoses, there are plenty of rivals, but again the San Franciscans under Herbert Blomstedt on Decca are the strongest. Both performances are very fine, and if I incline towards the Decca version it’s only by a short whisker. Ivan Hewett

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