Hyperion Records

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

'Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis & other orchestral works' (CDA68006)
Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis & other orchestral works
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Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Scherzo: Turandot
Movement 3: Andantino
Movement 4: Marsch

Symphonic Metamorphosis after themes by Carl Maria von Weber
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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