"Hindemith may not have been a Schoenberg or Stravinsky, but at his most inspired he was certainly way up there near the top of the heap, among the greatest composers of the late lamented 20th Century. What these recordings tell us, however, and to me this comes as something of a shock, is that he was also a truly great conductor. All the performances in this set are in my opinion truly extraordinary, among the very best orchestral performances I've ever heard -- of any music by any composer of any period.
Everything one would expect of a superlative performance is here, the tempi, the balances, the shadings, accents, nuance, intonation, attention to detail, attention to overall structure, sweep, authority, intensity, even expressiveness (YES, expressiveness!) and passion (yes, passion too).
To get a sense of how remarkable a conductor Hindemith is, listen carefully to the slow movement of Mathis. With tempi this slow (and this is the slowest I've heard for this piece, extremely slow), it's very difficult to maintain interest, not to mention control. However, in the hands of Hindemith and this remarkable orchestra, with whom he's obviously established an extraordinary rapport, the tempo works beautifully and the piece takes on an almost Mahlerian intensity I'd never heard before.
As if this weren't enough, the set contains one of the most remarkable pianistic performances I've ever heard, from Hindemith's composition student, Hans Otte. The "Four Temperaments" begins in typical middle period Hindemithian style, with a statement of the rather steady, bland and predictable theme, but with the entry of the piano for the first variation, all is transformed -- and suddenly we are back in the world of early Hindemith, one of the most inventive and masterful composers since Bach himself. The pianism is simply beyond belief here, just stunning in its verve, precision, virtuosity, nuance and phrasing. With the entry of the piano the piece just takes off, soars into the stratosphere, thanks to composer and pianist both. Otte was hand picked by Hindemith for this performance so possibly what we hear is at least in part due to careful coaching. But it's hard to understand how mere coaching could produce such marvels of nuance and such complete control of the instrument and total musical involvement in passage after passage. If you ever want to inspire a young performer with the possibilities of his art, you would do well to play your student this recording.
As for the more mundane details, even they are all good. The sonics are fantastic for a recording of this vintage, clear, even vibrant, with lots of body and power when called for. The orchestra itself is superb and in perfect rapport with its director. Even the piano selected for these recordings is a marvel, simply one of the finest instruments of its kind I've ever heard.
I know, it's easy to be skeptical in the face of all these superlatives, but I assure you I'm not usually this enthusiastic. These recordings truly are gems, trust me. HAH! "
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 02/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Hindemith Conducts Hindemith: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon" is another essential release in Universal's "Original Masters" series. This 3CD set features the composer himself conducting some of his best known works, including his two Symphonies, Symphonic Metamorphosis, Concerto for Orchestra, and Konzertmusik with Monique Haas on piano. All of the recordings hail from 1954-57 and while they are in mono, the DG sound is clear as a bell. Previously I owned a dozen or so CDs featuring various Hindemith works (performed by conductors Abbado, Bernstein, Blomstedt, Goossens, Kletzki, Kubelik, Szell, etc.), but only one with Hindemith himself conducting his own music (the Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh -- see my review). Well if you like a composer and have the ability to hear them conduct their own music, then you should do it, whatever the cost. I mean what would you give to have the opportunity to hear Beethoven or Mozart perform! Luckily in this case you don't have to fantasize, you just have to buy this affordable, budget-priced box set."
Lean, clean and unadorned, as Hindemith intended
Stephen J. Snyder | Lancaster, Texas United States | 02/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hindemith jumped at the chance to record his major works with Deutsche Grammophon when it was offered in the early 1950s.
First, was his theory of conducting. He felt the conductor should, as much as possible, be "transparent" and not add anything to the music, i.e., through not gesticulating (especially wildly), etc.
Second, he had seen and heard conductors do just that to his works. And he had heard this result in what he considered overconducting.
Now, that doesn't mean that Hindemith wanted some "native" style of conducting, or even people conducting his works as sight-reading exercises. He expected a piece to be properly understood so that such overconducting was unnecessary.
The result is to be heard here. Now, by "lean and clean," we're not not talking Boulez. But, compared to his day and age, to the Furtwaenglers and others, we are talking something almost that spare.
When you hear these CDs, you'll immediately understand why Hindemith thought that other composers made his music sound too muddy.
These are mono recordings, but in studio in the early and mid 1950s with the Berlin Philharmonic, the baseline sound quality was quite good and the CDs have been well-engineered.
This is an outstanding buy of a great 20th-century composer."
Hindemith conducts Hindemith
Eckhart H. Richter | 11/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The musician's musician, the most versatile, skilled and knowledgeable composer of the 20th Century can be heard with delight in this excellently remastered Deutsche Grammophon recording of him conducting the Berlin Phiharmonic Orchestra in definitive renditions of some of his own masterpieces. Hindemith by and large was the best interpreter of his own works. Under his direction pure, unadulterated, joyfull music-making of great vitality prevails, thoroughly unpedantic, yet devoid of vanity, pretentious display or exaggeration. The rendition of the Mathis Symphony is, of course, definitive and the nowadays most frequently perfomed Symphonic Metamorphosis is done with gusto. But we would like to call special attention to such an inexplicably neglected masterpiece as the thoroughly delightful, but substantial Symphonic Dances and the unique and profound Konzermusik for piano, brass & harp. What neo-Baroque, roaring twenties exhuberance displayed in the Concerto for Orchestra and what a gem of human insight "The Four Temperaments", here definitively rendered! ER"
"Among the annals of the most emotive, vibrant and priceless recordings made by any composer, these recordings are of priority importance, because the directorial gifts of Pual Hindemith are not so far of his talent as composer.