It's not too often anymore that we get a world premiere recording of a work by a composer as well-known and widely performed as Hindemith. The circumstances surrounding the recording as well as the artist make this album a real find. Composed in 1921 for wealthy pianist Paul Wittgenstein, Hindemith's Klaviermusik mit Orchestra, Op. 29, was one of several compositions for left-hand only that Wittgenstein commissioned from the likes of Britten, Prokofiev, and Ravel after losing his right arm in WWI. Unlike these other compositions, Wittgenstein never performed Hindemith's piece, did not allow others to perform it, and did not allow it to be published. Only after several machinations following his death was the work finally available in 2002. This Ondine album features legendary pianist Leon Fleisher, who himself lost the use of his right hand for some four decades, with Christoph Eschenbach leading the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Why Wittgenstein never performed this piece is even more a mystery after hearing it; Wittgenstein must have known what Hindemith's music was like, and there are no real departures from the type of music Hindemith was composing at the time.
Fleisher's performance is exactly what one might expect: electrifying. His earlier mastery of the other works for piano left hand make him the perfect performer for this composition. He brings forth an abundance of engaging rhythmic diversity, textural change, and musical energy. The students of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra do honor to Hindemith and Fleisher in their own careful attention to detail. The album also includes Dvorák's Ninth Symphony. While well-played, it certainly offers nothing new or innovative and is largely just filler compared to the importance and interest surrounding the Hindemith.