ALBUM TITLE: Hindemith
WORKS: String Quartets Nos 1 & 4
PERFORMER: Amar Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.572165
The Amar Quartet plays Hindemith with all the proprietorial authority one would expect from such a brand. The first Amar Quartet was founded back in 1921 by Hindemith, who played viola in it under the leadership of Licco Amar. But the name was revived 20 years ago when, to mark the composer’s centenary, the Hindemith Institute awarded the title to today’s Swiss-based players on account of their deep engagement with his music. This third and final volume in their Naxos series of the complete Hindemith string quartets proves again how worthy they are of the honour.
Hindemith’s seven quartets were written between 1915 and 1945, and show all the stylistic progress that implies. The String Quartet No. 1 is his Opus Two, so not surprisingly there are echoes of Brahms in its late-Romantic language, and it is a long work lasting just over 40 minutes; the composer put it away after its premiere and it was not heard again until 1986. It might cloy in a lesser performance, but not here thanks to the Amars’ subtle warmth. The great Fourth Quartet, dating from 1921, finds Hindemith already in possession of his full powers: these players ensure that the opening ‘Fugato’ is never dry, and they are superbly attuned to the unsentimental melancholy of the beautiful middle movement. John Allison