Monday, June 08, 2009

Hindemith, Vorsprung durch Technik

This title came to me from a German car commercial (Advantage by technique), and I think it fits the well-known but not highly popular German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). After all, he wrote a theoretical book The Craft of Musical Composition , which lays out his unique compositional technique in detail. His style developed from late romantic through expressionist to neo-classical, ending in a complex contrapuntal musical language. This Naxos CD presents two of his best and most famous works. The 1934 symphony Mathis der Maler is based on musical themes from his opera of the same name, depicting the life of the painter Matthias Grünewald. It has a majestic feeling about it, and for me this is one of the best symphonies composed in the post-Mahler era. Perhaps his most popular work is the Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943), based on melodies from various works by Weber. Next to these two, my favourite Hindemith conmpositions are the requiem When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed, and the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher. On this CD, Naxos have opted for another worthwhile work, the 1938 ballet music Nobilissima Visione. The performance by the New Zealand Symphony orchestra under Franz-Paul Decker is top notch, and the sound is excellent. A great introduction to a 20th century composer who should be part of any larger classical music collection.