HINDEMITH: Hérodiade – Inscape* – Sono Luminus SL-D-97202, 20:30 (download only) ****:
Paul Hindemith wrote few ballets; Hérodiade is based on Stéphane Mallarmé’s dialogue poem and consists of eleven movements that are performed without major breaks. The ballet is scored for a chamber ensemble of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn—a woodwind quintet–plus piano and strings. The music for the textual portions of the nurse in the poem is given to the strings, while the lines of Hérodiade are represented by the winds as well as the piano. Hérodiade was completed in two weeks in June 1944 in New Haven, and the premiere took place at the Library of Congress on November 30, 1944, with Martha Graham dancing the role of Hérodiade. The whole came about through renewed contact from the noted patron of the arts, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. It doesn’t sound like a ballet—one struggles to imagine the dancing—but it is one of the composer’s most original, provocative, and richly romantic-sounding works with its luscious orchestration and vibrant rhythms.
The chamber ensemble Inscape* offers a sterling reading in excellent sound, and with only one other on the market (CPO), a necessary one as well. This is available as a digital download.