Paul Hindemith: Mainzer Umzug; Symphonische Metamorphosen. © 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück

CD Spotlight

History of an Ancient Town

Music by Paul Hindemith, heard by GEOFF PEARCE

'This excellent disc has strong performances by orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists.'


This is an interesting disc of one well known and loved work of Hindemith - the Symphonic Metamorphoses - and some lesser known works, principally the Mainzer Umzug.

The programme notes are very confusing - the works discussed are not in the order that they appear on the disc, and whilst interesting to read, the style I found just too challenging to make sense out of.

The opening work is the brooding Prelude to Hindemith's Requiem - a one hour work written in 1948. Hindemith used as his inspiration, a poem of Walt Whitman, written after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln: When Lilacs in the door-way bloom'd. The resultant prelude is a sombre four-minute piece filled with sadness, where a repeated four note figure occurs over a long pedal note which lasts the entire length of the prelude. It rises briefly in volume and intensity, to become an anguished cry, before fading away.

Listen — Hindemith: Vorspiel (Requiem)
(track 1, 1:24-2:24) ℗ 2021 cpo :

The four-movement Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (completed in 1944) is probably the work that most people think of when they hear the name Hindemith. It is inventive, easy to listen to, and has some challenging orchestral writing. It was one of my early favourites, and I still love hearing it.

Listen — Hindemith: Allegro (Symphonische Metamorphosen)
(track 2, 2:16-2:59) ℗ 2021 cpo :

The State Philharmonic Orchestra of Mainz performs admirably and gives a good solid account of this work. The good natured humour of this work comes through very well, and there are many other fine recordings of this great work.

Listen — Hindemith: Turandot. Scherzo (Symphonische Metamorphosen)
(track 3, 0:57-1:47) ℗ 2021 cpo :

The main work on this disc is the Mainz Parade, written in 1961-2, towards the end of Hindemith's life. It was a collaboration between Hindemith and his long time friend, the writer and dramatist Carl Zuckmayer. They had often talked about writing an opera together. It never eventuated but they did get together to produce this Mainz Parade written for the two thousandth anniversary of the Roman founded town.

Listen — Hindemith: So e freundlich Auskunft soll mer nit verwerfe (Mainzer Umzug)
(track 8, 2:27-3:14) ℗ 2021 cpo :

This forty minute work is quite hard to define. It was only performed twice, shortly after being written, and in spite of being well received, laid forgotten in the archives until it was recently revived by the conductor on this recording, Hermann Bäumer.

Listen — Hindemith: Die Schwarzkünstler Der Gensfleisch, der Schöffer und der Fust
(Mainzer Umzug) (track 9, 0:00-0:44) ℗ 2021 cpo :

Basically the work tells of the history of this ancient town, from the celts through to the current day, and imagines a glorious future. There are a number of soloists and a choir. Two of the soloists sometimes sing in the local dialect, which many of the other participants do not understand, and other parts are sung in High German. Fortunately the accompanying notes supply a translation of the text.

Listen — Hindemith: Heiter Wo aach in der Weltgeschicht passiert (Mainzer Umzug)
(track 10, 0:36-1:18) ℗ 2021 cpo :

I really did not know what to make of this work at first. Both Hindemith and Zuckmayer's sense of humour come into play. They were both locals to the area and assumed that the audience would understand the references. It is a sort of musical theatre without costumes or decorations, and in sections. The three soloists - two locals and an outside commentator - are excellent, and portray this somewhat irreverent and self-deprecating history lesson well.

Listen — Hindemith: Was der Goethe da beschrieb (Mainzer Umzug)
(track 13, 1:14-2:11) ℗ 2021 cpo :

The final work on the disc is a little march, the Narrhala March by Georg Karl Zulehner (1805-1847). He was one of the founding fathers of the Mainz Carnival Society, and drew his material from two extracts from an opera by Adolphe Adam. This triumphant march makes a suitable ending to this CD.

Listen — Georg Karl Zulehner: Narrhalla-Marsch
(track 15, 0:51-1:34) ℗ 2021 cpo :

This excellent disc has strong performances by orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists. It presents a very seldom performed Hindemith work alongside probably his best known one. Whilst I found the programme notes somewhat confusing, there is much valuable information within.

Copyright © 29 April 2021 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia









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