Hindemith was Germany’s leading young composer during the 20s and up until the advent of the Nazis. His concert music was the perfect embodiment of the spirit of culture in the Weimar Republic – parody and irony were strong elements in much of it. Kammermusik translates simply to Chamber Music, but some of these neo-classic works employed sizeable forces, and the final No. 7 is a full-fledged organ concerto with a grand and celebratory feeling to it. Hindemith had a strong interest in counterpoint and his works conform to solid structural lines, similar to works of the Baroque period. Some would compare his seven Kammermusiks to Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos.
No. 1 is merely for a chamber group without a particular soloist listed. It has a pleasant and informal air about it and ends with a humorous finale. No. 2 is a small neo-Baroque piano concerto and No. 3 a miniature cello concerto. The five movements of No. 4 spotlight a solo violinist and No. 5 features a violist. In No. 6 the intimate sound of the viola d’amore is in the solo position. The constantly-changing solo instruments lend a freshness and versatility to the works, especially if listening to an entire disc at one sitting.
The filler work on the second disc is the composer’s only concerto for viola and full orchestra. It is based on an old German folk song about the swan-turner – the man who in medieval times turned the spit so that roasting swans were evenly browned. The tune has a light and merry aspect to it, and so does the three-movement concerto. The original recordings compiled into this well-packed Hindemith double-disc reissue come from 1992 thru 2000 and sound thoroughly up to date sonically.
– John Sunier