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Hyperion Records

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Mountains in Winter (1919) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA68006
Recording details: December 2012
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Michael George
Engineered by Mike Clements
Release date: December 2013
Total duration: 21 minutes 18 seconds

'The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra audibly relish the challenges of each work and turn in immaculate performances of each, caught in superb sound by Mike Clements' (Gramophone)

'This fine album from Martyn Brabbins and the BBC SSO … illustrates in the Symphonic Metamorphosis and the Konzertmusik for brass and strings that Hindemith could be both warmly entertaining and bracingly intellectual at the same time' (The Observer)

'This fine orchestral programme … Brabbins and co relish the contrast between abrasive, declaratory brass and singing, soaring strings in the Konzertmusik … the Mathis is entirely worthy of this oft-recorded masterpiece, but the Weber Metamorphosis is the highlight, one of Hindemith's most attractive works, delivered with rhythmic bite and colouristic flair' (The Sunday Times)

'Hindemith's three orchestral scores in ideally gutsy persuasive accounts from Brabbins and his crack team. When a disc like this is presented with such panache, warmly detailed sound and persuasive sleevenotes, there really is no reason not to buy or download' (Classical Music)

'The Konzertmusik for brass and strings is fabulous—neatly constructed and beautifully written, as you'd expect from a composer who could play every orchestral instrument with some competence. Wise listeners will be drawn to experience its pleasures again and again, marvelling at the clever details, like the strings' opening chorale reprised on massed horns at the close of the first part, or the jaunty tuba line accompanying the second movement's subsidiary theme. The rush of adrenalin in the closing minutes is so uplifting, so positive … Martyn Brabbins's hardworking BBC Scottish players cope brilliantly with Hindemith's demands, also turning in a neat, poised reading of the three-movement symphony the composer drew from the opera Mathis der Maler. Hindemith's busy counterpoint seldom sounds dry, and Brabbins glories in the little moments of rapture—the first movement's sonorous coda, and the ecstatic brass Alleluias which close the piece. There's also the crowd-pleasing Symphonic Metamorphosis, gleefully transmuting Weber's small-scale piano duet themes into a unexpectedly entertaining showpiece. Bernstein's Israel Philharmonic recording remains the brassiest and punchiest, but Brabbins's performance has loads to commend it—fabulous percussion in the Turandot scherzo, and an elegant solo flute in the Andantino. A wonderful album, and the perfect introduction to a still under-appreciated composer' (TheArtsDesk.com)

Symphonic Metamorphosis after themes by Carl Maria von Weber
composer
1943; first performed in New York on 20 January 1944

Allegro  [4'17]
Andantino  [4'19]
Marsch  [4'49]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Like many of his fellows in exile, forced from home due to political affiliations or religious beliefs, Hindemith began to refer back to the tropes and traditions of his musical heritage, not least in the Symphonic Metamorphosis after themes by Carl Maria von Weber. The idea for the work came from the choreographer Léonide Massine, with whom Hindemith had collaborated on the 1938 ballet Nobilissima visione, about the life of St Francis of Assisi. Massine wanted strict arrangements of Weber. Hindemith’s rather free ‘metamorphosis’ of themes from Weber’s four-hand piano music and his 1809 incidental music to Gozzi’s Turandot, Prinzessin von China proved too complex for Massine’s needs and the plans were abandoned. Yet Hindemith’s Weber-inspired creations eventually formed the first and third movements of a new symphonic work, given its premiere in New York on 20 January 1944. This in turn found a theatrical home as George Balanchine’s Metamorphoses, choreographed for the New York City Ballet and performed by them in November 1952.

The first movement of the Symphonic Metamorphosis is based on the fourth of Weber’s Huit pièces for piano duet, Op 60 (1818–19) and Hindemith adds a goodly dose of the Chinoiserie of Gozzi’s Turandot. Flaunting orchestral colour, the music has a great sense of pageantry. Weber’s music for Turandot forms the basis of the theme in the second movement, heard against an eerie shimmer of strings and percussion. The Andantino returns to Weber’s piano duets for its source, specifically the Six pièces, Op 10 (1809); here the strings are particularly disarming following the pawky little tune of the second movement. Coming full circle (and citing another piece from the Op 60 duets), the finale is another confident march. It begins with ominous intent, but soon sheds those macabre tones, providing a veritable orchestral showcase.

from notes by Gavin Plumley © 2013

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