Hindemith: Symphonies-Mathis der Maler

By Ashley, Tim | Gramophone, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Hindemith: Symphonies-Mathis der Maler


Ashley, Tim, Gramophone


Hindemith

Symphonies--Mathis der Maler; in E flat

NDR Symphony Orchestra / Christoph Eschenbach

Ondine [F] ODE1275-2 (68' * DDD)

The second disc in Christoph Eschenbach's Hindemith series with the NDR Sinfonieorchester brings together the works that effectively marked the beginning and end of the major crisis in the composer's life. The Mathis der Maler Symphony (1934), drawing on material from his opera about the need for artistic integrity in dark political times, brought him into direct confrontation with the Nazis, setting in motion the chain of events that led to his exile in 1938. The Symphony in E flat (1940) was his first orchestral score to be composed after his arrival in the United States, where he eventually took citizenship. Though rarely performed or recorded together, they make a significant pairing.

Both are performed with great nobility and considerable eloquence. Eschenbach's trademark fondness for textural warmth and clarity is much to the fore in Mathis, where strings and woodwind are admirably numinous, the complex counterpoint in both the 'Engelkonzert' and the 'Temptation' beautifully detailed. The central 'Grablegung' is slow, rich-sounding and very introverted. The state-of-the-art recording, pristine and wide-ranging but with no sense of dynamic exaggeration, helps him at the big climaxes, which are imposing, at times even monumental, and there's a beguiling elegance to the instrumental solos that thread their way through the textures. …

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