Hindemith: Solo Viola Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Solo Viola Sonatas, Opp. 11/5, 25/1, 31/4; Sonata (1937)
PERFORMER: Lawrence Power (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67769

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Having recorded all Hindemith’s sonatas for viola and piano in Vol. 1 of Hyperion’s outstanding series, here Lawrence Power moves on to the unaccompanied solo sonatas. These are all works the composer wrote for himself to perform, lending them the rare aura of a personal musical testimony.

Adding to that weight, Hindemith was also reviving the genre of the solo string sonata, one of the very few composers to do so since the Baroque era, and the spirit of Bach’s solo violin and cello works hovers here. Power’s warmly rounded tone and searching interpretations cast the most favourable possible light on this wonderful if sometimes astringent music.

The unaccompanied sonatas span almost two decades and date from a very critical time in German cultural history. The first of them was published in 1919 and contains some writing of post-Brahmsian warmth, culminating in a big passacaglia. The middle two sonatas (1922 and 1923) reveal the composer moving into the more severe style of ‘New Objectivity’, and few players can make this music more compelling than does Power.

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Emotion returns in the fourth work of 1937, and Power handles it eloquently. Though such fine players as Nobuko Imai (BIS) and Kim Kashkashian (ECM) have made important Hindemith discs, Power’s series – soon to progress into a third and final volume with the works for viola and orchestra – is the most comprehensive and satisfying. John Allison