Gunter Teuffel

Paul Hindemith: Works for Viola d'Amore

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The viola d'amore, or viol of love, is a violin-like instrument with six or seven played strings and a set of sympathethic strings underneath those, lending it an oddly resonant sound often described as sweet. The instrument was popular during the Baroque, but unlike most instruments distinctive to that time it remained in use during the Classical era, and even Beethoven's contemporary Eybler wrote for it. It was one of the first Baroque instruments to be revived in the 20th century, and Paul Hindemith himself was an enthusiastic player. You may wonder why this release bears the title Paul Hindemith: Works for Viola d'Amore when well over half of it is by earlier composers. The answer is that Hindemith himself wrote the continuo realizations for the Partita for two viole d'amore and continuo of Biber and the Sonata in D major for viola d'amore and continuo of Carl Stamitz. German violist Gunter Teuffel plays Hindemith's own viola d'amore, and the album as a whole serves as a little re-creation of part of Hindemith's world. The continuo realizations are as interesting as the instrument's sound; Hindemith seems almost prophetic in his very active writing for the harpsichord, which would fit right in today, and the sound of the instruments remains fascinating for those who have never heard it before. The music is only moderately interesting. Biber's Partita is not among the wildly experimental works for which he was become known, and the sonata by Stamitz doesn't fit the instrument especially well. The greatest composer to write prolifically for the viola d'amore was Vivaldi; he would have made a more interesting choice, but probably Hindemith never knew his music and thus never arranged it. Hindemith's Little Sonata for viola d'amore and piano, Op. 25/2, is a charming example of his ability to bring out the smallest details of distinctive sound in writing for specific instruments, and the little-heard Kammermusik No. 6 for viola d'amore and small chamber orchestra likewise has memorable sonorities although it's unlikely that you'll be able to remember its themes after hearing it. Certainly of interest to Hindemith buffs and students of the early Baroque revival.

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