Various Artists

Hindemith: Symphonie; Mathis der Maler; Symphonic Metamorphoses; Der Schwanendreher; Novilissima Visone

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With a compositional output as abundant and broad as that of Paul Hindemith, choosing which of his works to include on a two discs is no doubt quite daunting. Even choosing only from among symphonic works is no easy task, but EMI has done a very nice job of choosing the most significant, larger scale orchestral works for listeners on this set. What's left is choosing the best performances of each of these works for inclusion; this is where EMI is sometimes a little off the mark. The first disc opens with Symphonie Mathis der Maler, one of Hindemith's best-known orchestral compositions, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1957. Although technically accurate, this particular recording does not capture the very best sound quality the Berlin can muster, often sounding unnecessarily nasal. Things improve for the Symphonia Serena, with Hindemith himself conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Overall sound quality here is much more even and listeners have the added bonus of hearing the composer lead his own composition. The winner of best sound quality, however, goes hands down to the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy in their 1979 performance of the Concert Music for Strings & Brass. The Philadelphia Orchestra returns for additional performances of the Symphonic Metamorphoses and the Suite from Noblissima Visione, both recorded in 1994 under Wolfgang Sawallisch. While Sawallisch leads the orchestra in performances that are every bit as technically secure as Ormandy, the orchestra's sound quality is not as clear, precise, and lucid, all traits that are present in abundance under Ormandy's leadership. The most unappealing sound quality in the set comes from violist Tabea Zimmermann in Der Schwanendreher. While technically magnificient, Zimmermann's sound is rather nasal and has a hard time projecting over the rather powerful orchestra.

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