Yuri Bashmet developed a highly successful international career as a violist, but then, like so many talented instrumentalists of his generation, branched out into conducting, even founding an orchestra. He has never abandoned the viola, managing to split his time in even portions between soloist and conductor, often appearing in both roles in the same concert.
Allison Brewster Franzetti's debut on Naxos invites the listener to compare and contrast four early modern piano works, performed with muscular vigor and sharp intelligence, and presented in a terrific-sounding album. However, this disc's title is slightly inaccurate, for among the twentieth century piano sonatas by Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, and Karl Amadeus Hartmann is placed Arnold Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, which is neither a sonata nor even of the same century as the other works, as it dates from 1894.
According to conventional wisdom, the adjective that most aptly describes Hindemith's music is "dry," just about as damning an assessment as exists, barely a step up from "mind-numbingly dull" or "unlistenable." Who wants to listen to dry music? Hindemith was remarkably prolific, and it must be admitted that he perhaps wrote more than his share of dry music, but he also wrote music of great energy, expressiveness, and wit.
This attractive album featuring the São Paolo Symphony Orchestra led by John Neschling includes three of Hindemith's most popular and appealing orchestral scores, all dating from the mid-'30s. Mathis der Maler, a 1934 symphony made up of three movements the composer incorporated into his opera of the same name, is a work with a mysteriously effective consolidation of seemingly disparate elements; it comes across as austere yet deeply intimate, and radiantly pure yet full of passion and ardor.
The Trio series is unquestionably, along with EMI's Gemini sets, one of the best available. This particular item is a complete set of Hindemith's orchestral works, and not only do we get full servings at over 60 minutes per CD, but you get fantastic performances as well. These Blomstedt SFSO/Leipzig Gewandhauser recordings were originally issued at full price on Decca, and when one hears them one can tell why.
Never one to relegate particular instruments to merely supporting roles, Hindemith composed his String Trio No. 1 (1924) with an eye (and ear) toward complete equality among the parts. The Trio is written in an almost constantly contrapuntal texture that makes much use of canon and fugue techniques; virtually the only instances where a homophonic texture is evident are those that mark important structural divisions of the movements. Though much of the music has an atonal feel, Hindemith provides a sense of direction by establishing tonal centers as points of momentary resolution. Typical of Hindemith's music of the early 1920s, the Trio is marked by a bracing, energetic spirit. The String Trio No. 2 strongly contrasts with its predecessor, the String Trio No. 1 (1924), which is marked by a strong feeling of atonality. When Hindemith wrote the present work nearly a decade later, his style had evolved somewhat. The Trio No. 2 is built on standard Classical forms but incorporates Hindemith's personal sense of tonality, in which any note or chord may be related to a given tonal center; the music has a refreshing, non-Romantic sound.
If you want a good sampling of Copland's orchestral works, then this 2-CD compilation comes highly recommended, with excellent performances of works such as Appalachian Spring, Quiet City, El Salón México and others. (Presto Classical)