Hindemith: Piano Sonatas Nos 1-3; Variations
Anyone familiar with Glenn Gould’s celebrated recording of the Hindemith Piano Sonatas may find that Markus Becker’s performance takes a little getting used to. For a start, the German pianist’s tempos are markedly slower, or at least more measured, in every single movement. Where Gould so obviously loves this music, Becker is drier and more objective – but who is to say that’s wrong when approaching Hindemith’s world of Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, as the aesthetic movement established in Weimar Germany was called.
These three post-Weimar works were composed in a spate of piano writing in 1936. They show Hindemith’s penchant for mixing dense textures with cloud-clearing moments of illuminating repose, not to mention his love for lilting siciliano rhythms, but they are all quite different. Becker commands the structure of each work, and if he finds less wit than Gould in the lighter Second Sonata, he is still very impressive in the virtuosity of the Third, in whose scherzo Gould takes off on one of his hyper-pianistic trajectories. The new release also offers a set of Variations, discarded from the First Sonata: along with everything else here, this profoundly rewarding music – like Becker’s playing itself – repays the deeper acquaintance of repeated listening.