Hindemith: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Ludus tonalis; Sonata for Piano Four Hands; Sonata for Two Pianos

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Ludus tonalis; Sonata for Piano Four Hands; Sonata for Two Pianos
PERFORMER: Bernard Roberts, David Strong (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5459/60
Recent versions of Ludus tonalis posed a stark choice between the mercurial brilliance of Olli Mustonen (Decca) and the sure solidity of John McCabe (Hyperion). It’s a relief to find Bernard Roberts’s combination of incisiveness and philosophic gravity makes him a clear first choice. He comes on a two-CD set, rather than his rivals’ single discs. But his coupling is surely decisive, offering most of Hindemith’s other significant music for one or two pianists. The three solo piano sonatas (all 1936) were composed in the fraught period between the first Nazi attacks on Mathis der Maler and Hindemith’s final choice of exile from Germany. Though among his most abstract works, they’re also a reply to his German critics in ringing terms of sheer non-nationalistic craft, and the tragic march in No. 1 and the powerfully contrapuntal finale of No. 3 are superb examples of Hindemith’s art in its most fully developed form. The four-handed sonatas are less austere, more varied in expression: the two-piano work of 1942 seems to include Hindemith’s response to Balinese gamelan music. David Strong hereis an able partner to Roberts’s authoritative readings. Much foodfor thought in this set. Much toenjoy, too. Calum MacDonald

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