HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis. Nobilissima Visione
I’d have to agree with Guy Rickards’s assertion that Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis is the most immediately attractive of his orchestral works. But Hindemith really only gets you with those surface jazz hands so he can hook you into the riddle of what’s going on underneath: Weber’s themes plundered not so much for how they sound as what they do mathematically – how they can mutate, overlay, refract and so on. When you think it’s a geometric trick, it might actually be a rhythmic one. Vice versa. It says something that the nearest Hindemith got to a showpiece is also such a structural tease. The biggest challenge to performers is in remaining true to the score’s written-in clarity, and it’s one met by Janowski and the orchestra here.
Hindemith’s suite of three movements from his St Francis of Assisi-inspired ballet Nobilissima Visione is a different proposition, especially when divorced from the dancing it maps with equal clarity. The first movement’s reflection of ‘a feast of dry bread and water’ tells all about the music’s austerity and, despite the brains at work in the Passacaglia, the movement surely gets too heavy too quickly. This is a ‘grey-scale’ performance and that’s meant as a compliment (it’s a far trickier sound to effect than garish Technicolor).
As for the pitting of winds against strings in Hindemith’s Concert Music, Op 50, written for Koussevitzky’s Boston Symphony Orchestra, it needs a degree more charisma in its ‘very fast with force’ opening – and higher-resolution strings – than it gets from Janowski’s forces here. The broad second section of this first part is far more affecting, as is the work’s second part. But to quibble once more, with the brass so full of snarl and snap – and Pentatone’s sound underlining the antiphonal confrontation – the strings could have used an ounce more attitude or a leg-up from the engineers. Don’t let those gripes steer you away from a revealing combination of absorbing works.