Hindemith: Konzertmusik

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Konzertmusik, Op. 48; Der Schwanendreher; Trauermusik; Kammermusik No. 5
PERFORMER: Lawrence Power (viola); BBC Scottish SO/David Atherton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67774

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Let’s admit it: Hindemith’s music often seems more attractive in concept than in concert. His works ought really to matter very much yet, however admirable their ideas, their astringency can be an obstacle to true appreciation.

Such reservations evaporate in the face of this new disc, but then the viola was Hindemith’s own instrument – he was a renowned soloist and chamber-music player in the inter-war period – and he left a great deal of very fine music for it.

Now on the third instalment of his Hindemith survey for Hyperion, Lawrence Power tackles the works with orchestra, and once again he projects splendidly warm and rounded tone, bringing compelling focus to these performances.

The biggest work here is Der Schwanendreher, a concerto based on old folksongs (hence the ‘Swan-Turner’ title). It dates from 1935, the same period as Hindemith’s operatic masterpiece Mathis der Maler, and the slow movement in particular is characterised by luminous lyricism.

When Hindemith came to London the following year for its British premiere, the death of King George V necessitated cancellation of the performance, but the composer still made his mark: within a matter of hours he wrote the Trauermusik (‘Mourning Music’) for viola and strings, a heartfelt work that has outlasted its origins.

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The earlier neo-classical works, Kammermusik No. 5 (1927) and Kammermusik (1930), are less lyrical, yet receive equally vivid performances from Power with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under David Atherton. The first work’s military-march-inspired finale brings the disc to an enjoyably raucous close. John Allison