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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of chamber music of Hindemith, focused on the clarinet, 4 Oct. 2011
G.C. (St. Louis, MO, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet (Audio CD)
If people think of the music of Paul Hindemith these days, the general impression will most probably be of a very serious, workmanlike composer, not terribly light on his feet. This CD may go some way to qualifying that image, since the various works here feature touches of humor, and even some sprightliness and charm, adjectives generally not applied to Hindemith's music. 3 of the 4 works center on the clarinet in chamber compositions. The work with the earliest genesis is the Clarinet Quintet, which he composed in 1923, but later revised and published in 1955. It opens in a biting manner, almost "snarky" in spirit, and that opening motif winds its way through the work here and there. The third movement has the apparent big, rousing concert ending, but two more short movements follow, with the finale harking back to that "snarky" beginning.

Clarinet quintets are fairly familiar, because of the pioneering example of Mozart, but clarinet quartets are not frequently written works, at least to my understanding. Hindemith's 1938 Clarinet Quintet is thus a case of such a relatively rare contribution to this particular medium. It starts gently, but ends in the finale in a rather emotionally tense manner. Hindemith relaxes a bit in the 1939 Clarinet Sonata, which to me is the most consistently sustained of the 3 clarinet-featured works on this CD. The jauntier parts of this sonata reminded me of Poulenc, of all composers, the last composer to which one would compare Hindemith. The one non-clarinet work on this album, the "Three Easy Pieces" for cello and piano, has a light and graceful charm about it, on a very modest scale.

All of the performances by the musicians of Spectrum Concerts Berlin are splendid. If you want to fill out your picture of Hindemith beyond the relatively few orchestral works that still have a toe-hold in symphony halls, you'll do very well with this CD.
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Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet
Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet by Spectrum Concerts Berlin (Audio CD - 2009)
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