Trio Zimmermann perform String Trios by Hindemith and Schoenberg

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith,Schoenberg
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Hindemith * Schoenberg
WORKS: Hindemith String Trios Nos 1 & 2; Schoenberg String Trio
PERFORMER: Trio Zimmermann
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2207 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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As a viola player himself, Hindemith played in an ensemble together with the violinist Szymon Goldberg and the cellist Emanuel Feuermann, so he knew the workings of the string trio from the inside. The first of his two trios was written during his enfant terrible years in the 1920s. Beginning with an energetic Toccata and ending with a frenetic fugue, it includes a movement almost entirely in pizzicato – some four years before Bartók wrote a similar piece in his Fourth String Quartet. By the time he composed his second trio, nearly a decade later, Hindemith’s style had mellowed, though its middle movement is again brilliantly playful. 

Schoenberg half-jokingly described his string trio as the first work he composed following his own death. In the summer of 1946 he suffered a cardiac arrest, and was saved by an injection of adrenalin directly into his heart. According to the writer Thomas Mann, the string trio depicted Schoenberg’s hospital experience in detail, down to the injections and a portrayal of the nurse who looked after him. Even without the benefit of hindsight, the music seems to hover between life and death. It runs the whole gamut of colouristic effects, and is hair-raisingly difficult to play. It’s a piece that demands three virtuosos, and Frank Peter Zimmermann, Antoine Tamestit and Christian Poltéra certainly fit the bill on this disc. Their playing is phenomenally accomplished, as it is, too, in the Hindemith pieces. This is likely to be one of the chamber discs of the year.

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Misha Donat