WORKS: Mathis der Maler Symphony; Nobilissima visione; Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 447 389-2 DDD
I’m not aware that Claudio Abbado has conducted a great deal of Hindemith in his career, and on the evidence of this splendidly realised new recording, this has been our loss. He has a perfect understanding of the two essential requirements in Hindemith’s orchestral scores: beauty of sound (the opening of the Mathis der Maler Symphony is ample evidence of this) and a sense of urgency which will bring Hindemith’s often cerebral inventions to life.
The Berlin Philharmonic plays the Mathis der Maler Symphony – which it premiered 61 years ago – with great feeling and also displays the degree of virtuosity required in the Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber (the jazzy interlude in the ‘Turandot’ scherzo is quite breathtaking). Abbado’s speeds are a touch quicker than Wolfgang Sawallisch’s in his recent Philadelphia recording on EMI (reviewed in the July issue of BBCMusic Magazine) and the general effect is thus rather tighter and more brilliant.
DG’s recording team does ample justice to the splendour of the Berlin Philharmonic sound, especially in the sonorous Passacaglia from Nobilissima visione. Elsewhere, Abbado’s flair and grasp of Hindemith’s wry, quirky sense of humour pays great rewards. I’ve rarely heard any of this music sound quite such fun.