Michael Stern / Kansas City Symphony

Miraculous Metamorphoses: Hindemith, Prokofiev, Bartók

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For this 2014 Reference Recordings, Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony present three modern orchestral showpieces that have become concert classics: Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, Sergey Prokofiev's suite from The Love for Three Oranges, and Béla Bartók's suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. To show how recognizable these pieces have become, sample track 2 to hear the famous scherzo from Hindemith's work, and track 7 for the popular march from Prokofiev's ballet. While Bartók's suite might be less familiar to casual listeners and hard to narrow down to one well-known excerpt, it has been increasingly programmed and recorded, and the brilliance of the score has made it a favorite for virtuoso orchestras. It's apparent that the Kansas City Orchestra relished every moment of these performances, and its energy and vitality make these recordings quite enjoyable, despite disappointing aspects of the HDCD recording. At times airless and dry, the softer passages require some boosting to be heard clearly, and the loudest passages really could have benefitted from responsive acoustics, if only to give the music greater dimensions. Still, this is an admirable disc for the exceptional musicianship, and newcomers to modern classical music should give these essential pieces a try.

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