Hindemith: Viola Sonatas
The Otto Mueller painting that adorns this new issue makes a beautiful cover, one that will appeal to all admirers of the German expressionist group Die Brücke. Its heightened sensuality may not seem to have a lot in common with Hindemith’s ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (‘New Objectivity’), but it is not the mismatch that might be imagined: some of Hindemith’s most frankly haunting tunes went into his viola music.
This is the first volume of a projected and very welcome series devoted to the viola works of a composer who played the instrument himself (he even gave the premiere of Walton’s Viola Concerto) and wrote prolifically for it. But sensuality is not the first thing that comes to mind in the 1939 Sonata that opens this disc.
Though not exactly austere, it is a concentrated work that receives a decisive performance from Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips. The Sonata Op. 11 No. 4, dating from 1919, is written in Hindemith’s early, Brahms-with-chromatic-twists style; it gives Power a chance to show off the gorgeously smooth tone of his 400-year-old instrument.
Composed just three years later, the Sonata Op. 25 No. 4 features an uncharacteristically Bartókian finale and a big piano part that Crawford-Phillips – who provides a strong backbone throughout – seizes gratefully. Power’s acute sense of phrasing makes for an eloquent and elegiac Meditation, a transcription from the 1938 ballet Nobilissima visione. John Allison