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The Four Temperaments by Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) is a tribute to the Baroque era in theme and variation form. Originally conceived as a ballet score for choreographer Leonid Massine, The Four Temperaments became a cornerstone of the New York City Ballet repertoire of that master balletomane and creative genius George Balanchine. (The Balanchine version has been danced regularly by Edward Villella's Miami City Ballet.) Hindemith was one of the 20th century's real musical renaissance men. A brilliant composer, conductor, violist, teacher, and musicologist Hindemith was an inventive creative artist. (If he had devoted himself totally to conducting Hindemith would have been one of the giants of the podium -- so eloquent were his interpretations of Brahms and Bruckner. He formed the first period instrument ensemble in the United States -- the Yale Consort which predated such famous European Baroque groups as the Academy of Ancient Music and Les Arts Florissants.) The Four Temperaments is a beautifully constructed modern concerto grosso. Its thematic material is eloquent and inspired. A master violist, Hindemith's writing for the lower strings has a dark resonance and poignance that lingers in the listener's memory. The solo piano writing is a virtuosic exercise in contrapuntal gymnastics -- a thoroughly contemporary take on the Baroque continuo's supporting role.

The New World musicians played this wonderful score with splendid technique and instrumental mastery. Pianist Ciro Fodere dispatched the rapid fire keyboard writing with bracing momentum. He did not try to sugarcoat Hindemith's instrumental astringency. The solo violin line was played with searching intensity. Despite the players' best efforts, Outwater failed to illuminate the score's neo-Baroque ornamentation. The performance needed a greater variety of dynamics. Much of the time it was loud and forced. String textures lacked transparency. The conductor led the work in episodic fashion rather than illuminating the grand line of Hindemith's multi-colored variations.

Edwin Outwater
Edwin Outwater

Despite Outwater's shortcomings the gifted musicians of the New World Symphony (some of whom graced this summer's Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra at that western Massachusetts cultural mecca) gave a winning demonstration of instrumental dexterity and disciplined ensemble playing. The performance of Schoenberg's haunting masterpiece brought the concert to another level -- a truly Transfigured Night.

Copyright © 10 October 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA



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