LABELS: RCAVictor Red Seal
PERFORMER: Members of the Deutsches SO, Berlin/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68147 2
RCA Victor offer a fascinating curiosity in the form of Paul Hindemith’s In Sturm und Eis. With its beguiling textures and fertile melodic invention, this symphonic work is the score which this restless, increasingly self-conscious composer wrote for his friend Arnold Fanck’s film Im Kampf mit dem Berg.
Its genesis is suitably strange. Mountaineering films were all the rage in the early Twenties, and Fanck was master of the genre. This particular work was shot amid clouds and glaciers, and simply follows an intrepid couple as they scale one of the peaks by the Matterhorn.
It’s a paean to the wonders of nature and it galvanised Hindemith accordingly. When he saw the finished film, he said excitedly to Fanck: ‘What you’re doing there is pure music!’ His score was one of the first original compositions ever to grace a film. But it was so difficult that the German cinema orchestras wouldn’t play it: they were more used to busking with familiar classics.
Only recently has it been rehabilitated as the superb cinematic adjunct which it is. But as a concert piece – ably recorded by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, Berlin under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies – it lacks thrust. It needs to draw narrative drive from images on screen.