Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber; Nobilissima Visione – suite; Concert Music for Strings and Brass (Boston Symphony)
WDR Symphony Orchestra/Marek Janowski
Pentatone PTC 5186672
Hindemith is sometimes dismissed as a drily academic composer, and it’s true that his vast output is uneven in quality. Yet at its best his music could be dazzlingly inventive, as it is in the three pieces recorded here. Two of them were written for virtuoso American orchestras – the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber for the New York Philharmonic, and the Concert Music for Strings and Brass for Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Symphonic Metamorphosis could almost be described as a concerto for orchestra, with its exotic percussion effects (taking their cue from the chinoiserie of Weber’sTurandot overture) and jazzy brass interludes. The Concert Music pits long passages for brass and double-bass against the strings, and its second movement is a breakneck speed fugue. The ballet Nobilissima Visione, inspired by the Giotto frescoes in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, has a finale that sticks rather unwaveringly to its short passacaglia theme, though the remaining two movements have more to offer.
Nobilissima Visione and the Symphonic Metamorphosis have long been available in a fine DG recording by Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, but Marek Janowski and the WDR Symphony Orchestra do this music equally proud. Abbado is a touch steadier in the outer movements of the Weber piece, but his rhythms are meticulously pointed. Janowski lends the music greater energy and urgency. Both are superb in their different ways, and certainly this very well recorded new disc should win Hindemith new friends.