Critical assessment of Karl Amadeus Hartmann once had him hovering near the fringes of the highest ranking of German composers of the generation of Hindemith and Orff, but his music never quite caught on in the public's imagination. This collection of three of his orchestral works, conducted by Rafael Kubelik, one of his most ardent advocates, demonstrates the strengths and limitations of his work. Hartmann was a highly skilled craftsman in the sense that Hindemith was, and his music, like some of Hindemith's, can seem driven more by craft than by inspiration. Hartmann consciously wrestled with the balance between what he perceived as the antithetical principles of the discipline required of polyphony and the freedom of expressivity. In his most effective works, including Symphonische Hymnen recorded here, he achieves his goal of writing deeply expressive music that is constructed with formal and contrapuntal rigor. In each of its movements, he generates a pulse-quickening, propulsive energy that's thrillingly visceral, and he employs a brilliantly varied orchestral palette. The Konzert für Klavier Bläser und Schlagzeug and Concerto Funèbre, on the other hand, have sporadic moments of interest, but fail to create much heat. Kubelik leads Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in ferociously committed performances. There is a fair amount of peripheral noise that's covered in the louder passages (which includes most of Hymnen) but the orchestral sound is lively and present. The sustained level of inspiration in Symphonische Hymnen alone justifies the value of the CD, and prompts the question of the need for a reevaluation of his work.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Concerto for piano, winds & percussion|
|Concerto Funebre for violin & string orchestra|
|Symphonic Hymns for orchestra|