HINDEMITH's VIOLIN CONCERTO is one of my very favorite of all orchestral pieces, and it is one of the pieces that I most often listen to, along with Bartok's piano concertos, Bartok's violin rhapsodies and violin concertos, Beethoven's piano sonatas, Mahler's symphonies, and the Brahms and Schumann piano quartets and piano quintets (and also the 2-piano versions of these chamber pieces by Brahms and Schumann, as recorded by MATTHIES and KOHN).
The VIOLIN CONCERTO begins with the violin soaring in the highest register, with the strings providing an accompaniment consisting of nervous little chugs. The violin part has a distinctive, hummable tune. At 25 seconds, the woodwinds take over, and reiterate the violin tune. At 50 seconds, the violin is again dominant, but then the nervous chugs return at 57 seconds, this time provided by the woodwinds. At 1 min, 10 seconds, the entire orchestra joints in, and there is a climactic cymbal crash. The violin begins playing a motoristic theme, which goes, "1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4." The motoristic theme begins at 2 minutes, and continues until 3 min, 35 seconds, when it terminates and is converted into a conventional trill.
Actually, the first movement of the VIOLIN CONCERTO begins with a short drum solo, but the drum is poorly recorded and it is too quiet. In contrast, in another recording of the same piece, that is, the piece conducted by JOSE SEREBRIER, the drum at the beginning is distinctive and more pronounced. Aside from the problem with the beginning drum part, and some slight differences in timing throughout the CONCERTO, I was not able to discern any differences in the music of the present recording conducted by PAAVO JARVI and the music of the earlier recording by JOSE SEREBRIER. Actually, there is a difference. When playing the PAAVO JARVI recording, the compact disc player displays the title of each piece on the LED (light emitting diode) panel of the CD player. However, the disc from the SEREBRIER recording does not display any titles.
The VIOLIN CONCERTO has something for everyone. There are tunes that you can hum. The tunes are never arbitrary-sounding. There are elegant slow parts. There are parts that are blustery, but not bombastic. There are percussive wallaps. There are soaring anthemic parts that will give you goosebumps.
Also please note that Midori has performed on a newly released recording of the Hindemith Violin Concerto. I am VERY PLEASED by this. It is about time that this tuneful, intuitively composed, and exciting symphonic piece acquire a broader following. As everybody knows, Midori, along with Hilary Hahn, Sarah Chang, and Anne-Sophie Mutter, are the world's most preeminent "fiddle babes."
The other pieces on this album are violin solos and duets for violin and piano. Regarding these other pieces, I find that Cut 11 is a real treasure.
Cut 4. This is a solo violin piece, 1 min 55 seconds long. the piece has an optimistic air to it. The piece almost seems to say, "Good morning, have some orange juice, the sun is beaming." The piece is distinguished in that consecutive notes are played with a single, slow bow stroke. The piece ends with a disruption of this stylistic technique, because the piece ends with percussive chugs played by the jerking violin bow.
Cut. 5. This is another solo violin piece. It is a slowly moving piece. It has the quality of an unfinished draft, as is the case with some of Hindemith's orchestral pieces.
Cut. 6. This is yet another solo violin piece. It is pizzicato from start to finish, and is a pleasant piece, with a moderate pace.
Cut 7. The first 30 seconds takes the form of contra dance music. Then, the style suddenly changes into a Hindemith-style, with a lively jagged motif. At 1 min, 35 seconds, the slow contra dance music resumes. At 2 min, 42 seconds, the Hindemith-style returns, but the violin plays swirly motifs, not jagged motifs. Cut 7 is a solo violin piece. Cut 7 is stupid-sounding. I do not think that contra dance music goes well with Hindemith-style music.
Cut 8. This is a piano and violin duet. It is a moderately paced piece with a pleasant theme that ascends and descends. At 2 min, 10 sec, the mood changes, and becomes more aggressive. At 3 min, 5 sec, the ascending/descending theme returns. The piece could have been written by Brahms. Now and then, the music truly sounds Brahmsian.
Cut 9. At the beginning of this piano and violin duet, and throughout, there is a theme sounding like a whimpering child. I do not care for this piece.
Cut 10. This is a slow-to-moderate paced duet. There are not any shifts in mood or in pacing, and there are not any discernable tunes in this 3 min, 38 second piece.
Cut 11. This is a slow-paced duet, at least at first. At 1 min, 40 sec, there is a sudden transition to a faster speed. At 4 min, 15 sec, begins a slow part sounding like Hindemith's FOUR TEMPERAMENTS. At 5 min, 10 sec, the fast-paced theme resumes. The entire piece is 5 min, 30 seconds long. Cut 11 is one of the most beautiful pieces in the entire Hindemith repertoire. I will make sure to listen to Cut 11 many times over during the coming years.
Cut 12. This duet is only 2 min, 10 sec long. It is a lively piece, but not as distinctive as Cut 11.
Cut 13. This duet includes little motifs that are pathologically repeated. Towards the end, is a part where the speed of the violin is mismatched with the speed of the piano. This type of awkward mismatch is also found in part of Hindemith's CONCERT MUSIC FOR VIOLA AND LARGE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, as recorded by Louisville Orchestra.
Cut 14. This 6 minute, 30 second duet changes mood from time to time, and includes soaring anthemic interludes at the 3 minute mark, and at the 5 minute mark. In these anthemic interludes, the violin plays in the highest register. I would enjoy listening to Cut 14 again and again, but Cut 11 is still my very favorite of the duets.