Hindemith: Violin Concerto
Before Hindemith became famous as a viola player – or, indeed, as a composer – the violin was his instrument. He was appointed leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra when only 19, and this rewarding new release is a reminder of his continued close affinity with the instrument. Most of his stylistic phases are reflected in these pieces.
The disc opens with the greatest and last of them, the Violin Concerto. Hindemith was already in the United States when it was premiered at the Concertgebouw in 1940, not long before Amsterdam fell to the Nazis. Alongside an understandable feeling of angst, the Concerto is also full of lyricism and what Malcolm MacDonald’s liner notes aptly call ‘supercharged energy’. The work’s neglect in the concert hall is unjust, but then few performers reach the level attained here by Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi. Virtuosity is not so much the music’s aim as expressivity, yet Zimmermann plays with brilliance throughout.
The three Sonatas for violin and piano, in which Zimmermann’s musicianship is matched by Enrico Pace, make a fascinating sequence, covering the years from 1918 to 1939. Not that there is any hint of war in the last, C major work, which has a calm and immensely satisfying fugal finale. Zimmermann also brings out the luminosity of the Solo Sonata, which comes with an ironic subtitle, ‘Es ist so schönes Wetter draussen’ (‘It is such nice weather outside’), that ought to endear it to British listeners.