The great German composer, conductor, and violist Paul Hindemith died at age 68, a little over a month after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, so the very idea of Hindemith producing "new music" in 2009 seems a little counter-intuitive. Admittedly, the gradual trickling out of bottom drawer content -- sketches, unpublished and forgotten early works, etc. -- by major classical composers is nothing new. It seems these days as though Jean Sibelius has a half dozen new things come out every few months or so. However, instances where a large score, such as a previously unknown full-scale concerto, from a composer of Hindemith's stature are relatively rare. That's what Finnish label Ondine is offering for the first time in their release, Hindemith: Klaviermusik mit Orchester.
Klaviermusik mit Orchester dates from 1923, smack in the center of one of Hindemith's greatest creative periods, when he was regarded as the "bad boy" of German music owing to works such as the Piano Suite 1922 and the puppet opera Das Nusch-Nuschi (1920). It was written -- as was Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in D for the Left Hand (1932) -- to fulfill a commission for one-armed concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein never played the piece, but he also never returned its score to Hindemith. The score Hindemith sent to Wittgenstein remains lost, but a copyist's score of the work was discovered in Wittgenstein's well guarded archive in 2002. Matched with sketches in Hindemith's estate in Germany, a playable score was achieved, and pianist Leon Fleisher, who premiered it 81 years late in Berlin in December, 2004, has adopted the piece into his repertoire. Although Fleisher regained the use of both hands late in life, for more than three decades he was limited to just one owing to an injury. Fleisher's long years of operating solely as a one-handed pianist has suited him especially well for this concerto, and he is supported by Christoph Eschenbach and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, the in-house band belonging to one of America's foremost institutions of musical education.
Read the full AMG review of this release here.