Paul Hindemith / New York Philharmonic

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

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Recordings of Paul Hindemith's conducting are not plentiful, so Urania's reissue of his rendition of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major with the New York Philharmonic is a significant item for collectors of historic performances. Granted, this is a live recording, so there are a few audio problems, such as a fairly condensed monaural sound, occasional shifts in instrumental focus and volume, and audience noises that may turn off some listeners. But devoted Bruckner fans will appreciate Hindemith's robust presentation, and once one has acclimated to the somewhat limited reproduction, it is fairly easy to enjoy the playing, thanks to a nice clean-up of analog hiss through the digital remastering. Hindemith offers a mainstream reading that balances energy with lyricism, and finds the heart of Bruckner's emotional world without overindulging in rubato or exaggerated tempo changes. To an extent, it is a fairly Romantic interpretation, surprisingly so for Hindemith, who might have seemed too much of a modernist to approach this symphony with sympathy. Yet he maintains a pretty rigorous hold on the expression and never lets the work slip into bathos or bombast, as some of his older contemporaries sometimes did. Instead of playing up the emotional aspects of the symphony, he pays due attention to its many passages of counterpoint, a feature easily glossed over in this symphony but essential to understanding Bruckner's music. Filling the rest of the program is Luigi Cherubini's stormy Overture to Medea, part of the same concert Hindemith conducted on February 7, 1960.

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