Hindemith: The Long Christmas Dinner

Reviewed on Fri 25 Dec, 2015

Hindemith's scoring is chamber-like and subtle in effect, and his completely characteristic treatment of 'God rest ye merry, gentlemen' in the instrumental prologue is very enjoyable.

Those remembering the extreme expressionism of Hindemith's early one-act operas (Sancta Susanna is particularly worth exploring) may find this late work more accessible. Written in collaboration with Thornton Wilder, it presents a tableau of 90 years of a family Christmas meal, with participants entering and leaving through doors of birth, life and death. Despite the seasonal association, this is by no means a sentimental work; the pace of the dramatic action (which in other circumstances might be almost comedic) draws us away from individual characters and towards the evolving, often cyclical narrative of the Bayard family and its values. Hindemith's scoring is chamber-like and subtle in effect, and his completely characteristic treatment of 'God rest ye merry, gentlemen' in the instrumental prologue is very enjoyable. This excellent live performance is also reasonably well recorded (there are inevitable 'off-mike' moments) and may be recommended to all lovers of Hindemith's music. Merry Christmas, everybody!
–Chris Achenbach