Hindemith and Mahler played by members
of the New World Symphony,
reviewed by LAWRENCE BUDMEN
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was a musical polymath -- composer, conductor, violist, educator, and musicologist. Hindemith was one of the first to perform Baroque music with an original instrument ensemble (at Yale University, where he taught for many years). His formidable conducting talents were often focused on the music of Anton Bruckner. (He led the Chicago Symphony in a legendary performance of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony. Excerpts from that early 1960s performance have been preserved on video.) He composed numerous works for the viola -- broadening the sparse repertoire for that instrument; yet Hindemith's creative output is more often respected than performed. In a concert of 'Chamber Music from Germany and Vienna' members of the New World Symphony revived a genuine rarity -- the score for Hindemith's 1922 ballet The Demon on 13 February 2005 at the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
This score proved to be one of Hindemith's most striking creations. Dating from the composer's avant garde period -- when Hindemith was the 'bad boy of European music' -- The Demon combines the spiky modernist tendencies of the 1920s with the neo-classicism that would soon become fashionable (particularly in Parisian musical circles). Hindemith's devotion to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his rigorous artistic craftsmanship shine through this fascinating score. The composer's subtle sense of instrumental coloration is very much in evidence in this dance-theater piece. Fierce chords introduce the opening and closing 'Dance of the Demon'. (The ballet's scenario concerns a Grand Demon who captures two sisters. The women seduce the Demon, thereby losing their innocence.) The principal theme is a neo-Stravinsky motif (in the vein of such works as the Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony in C, and the Dumbarton Oaks concerto) -- definitely austere and neo-classical. Piano arpeggios introduce the elegant theme of the 'Dance of the Colored Ribbons'. Boldly modern trumpet fanfares (à la Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto) resound in the 'Dance of Poison'. The lengthy Passacaglia introduces a dissonant version of a Bach-like theme in the strings. The thematic thread is passed throughout all the instruments of the chamber ensemble. This movement presents Hindemith at his creative peak! This Passacaglia is an extraordinary piece of instrumental writing! The piano's bell-like tones alight the 'Dance of Mourning and Yearning'.
Copyright © 22 February 2005
Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA