Sadly So-So Hindemith from Alsop in Vienna

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

This collection promises more than it delivers: three Hindemith operatic works, two from his radical early Weimar phase, and one from his mature, “middle period” in the 1930s. The Nusch-Nuschi dances are typically busy, not terribly tuneful, but entertaining enough for their brief, ten minute duration. Sancta Susanna is a wild one-act opera about a psychotic nun who rips off her habit and embraces a statue of the crucified Christ. Considered shocking in its day (1921), it still can be, but not in this less than garish, low-voltage performance. The singing is OK, but neither lead soprano Ausrine Stundyte nor Alsop curdle the blood.

Most disappointing, however, is the Mathis der Maler Symphony, and here the problem is as obvious as it is readily audible. Alsop simply takes the slow bits too slowly. In the opening movement, for example, the introduction and the calm moment after the big central climax simply kill the music’s momentum. The same applies to the “sex” music in the finale. Add to that dull, colorless playing by the seldom terribly exciting ORF orchestra, and the result is simply a bore. Alsop, a student of Bernstein–who was a brilliant Hindemith conductor–has no excuse for not bringing this music to life. In the event, then, with engineering that lacks openness on top, this is a disappointing release.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Mathis: Steinberg (DG)

    Nusch-Nuschi Dances; Sancta Susanna; Symphony "Mathis der Maler"

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