Hindemith: Die Harmonie der Welt Symphony; Sinfonietta in E

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Die Harmonie der Welt Symphony; Sinfonietta in E
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6471-2
In the concert hall and on disc the Harmonie der Welt Symphony that Hindemith abstracted from his opera-in-progress has always been the poor relation to his earlier ‘opera symphony’ Mathis der Maler. That also reflects the fortunes of the two stage works in the repertoire, though there are strong parallels between their subject matter: both focus on the predicament of a single man, the painter Matthias Grünewald in the first, the astronomer Johannes Kepler in Harmonie der Welt – but operatically and symphonically the latter is the less immediately striking work, though always well crafted and tactfully scored.

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Rickenbacher’s performance is committed enough, but music like this, which can tend towards neutral anonymity if insufficiently characterised, really needs more zealous advocacy than he and the Bamberg Symphony can summon. Their coupling is a rarity – the Sinfonietta in Hindemith’s fluent neo-classical vein that he wrote for the Louisville Philharmonic Society two years earlier – but anyone who wants the bigger, more significant work on disc would be better off investigating Yan Pascal Tortelier’s account, much more vividly presented and recorded. Where Rickenbacher tends to confirm prejudices about the dry-as-dust academicism of much of Hindemith’s output, Tortelier makes the music sing, and reveals that beneath the perfectly correct surfaces there is an undertow of real emotion, real drama. Andrew Clements