classical music ROBERT MAYCOCK

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The Independent Culture
They could have called it "Why Hindemith is Not Boring", but that does lack a certain festive air. Anyway, to go by the only two pieces of Paul Hindemith's music most of us ever hear, excitement isn't a problem. One of them is a spectacular recomp osition of music by Weber that he made for outsize symphony orchestras during his later years in America - lots of fun at the expense of a pseudo-Chinese tune, and a blaze of brass to march it to its end. The other is a wild and wacky instrumental piece, hiding behind the name Kammermusik No 1, from his youthful days in Twenties Germany. So why is the BBC being so defensive in promoting this weekend's "Hindemith the Rebel" concerts at the Barbican? With music like that on his side he starts with a degre e of goodwill most composers would die for (and usually have to), never mind that the rest of it mysteriously goes unplayed.

You can probably blame the mafiosi of the Stravinsky and Schoenberg camps for bad-mouthing a rival. Like those other Aunt Sallies of mid-century music, Martinu and Milhaud, Hindemith's (below) reputation for turning out machine-made music by the yard always seems wrong for the piece you've just heard. And like them too, from this end of the century he looks to be sitting bang in the middle of the mainstream after all. All of which sets up these concerts' unknown quantities very nicely.

Most intriguing of them are the three short operas that figure in each of the evening sessions from one of the BBC orchestras. Subjects - since you mention not being boring - are murder, castration and the sexual undercurrents of life in a nunnery. Sharing the concerts are some of the best orchestral works: music you are more likely to have come across on disc, such as Nobilissima Visione and the Violin and Cello Concertos as well as the favourite Weber Metamorphoses. Earlier events include smaller-scal e concerts, dipping into the Kammermusik and other series, including choral music at lunchtime on Friday. Students play sonatas, community groups present the fruits of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's current education programmes, and Radio 3 - which carries all the main concerts - will add a few events of its own to the Composer of the Week series which has been running throughout this week. Sounds more like Hindemith the Irresistible.

Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm & 8pm, Barbican Hall,EC2 (071-638 8891)