Amar Quartett

Hindemith: String Quartets, Vol. 1

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Somewhat surprisingly, the first volume of Naxos' collection of Paul Hindemith's seven string quartets doesn't begin with the String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 2, presumably because of the series' space requirements, but skips ahead to the String Quartet No. 2 in F minor, Op. 10, and the String Quartet No. 3 in C major, Op. 16. These youthful works reflect the composer's ingenuity and love of parody, particularly of Romantic clichés, though his humor is still respectful of the conventions of the genre and never slapstick. The second quartet at times veers off into wildly chromatic modulations worthy of Max Reger, and some dissonant counterpoint that is fairly experimental, though these excursions are balanced with episodes of unclouded tonality and playful repartée. The third quartet is even more sophisticated, offering a mix of serious thematic argumentation and lively exchanges between the players, and revealing a more consistent and organic approach to developing material. The Amar Quartet, named after the quartet Hindemith founded in 1922, is outstanding in its interpretation of Hindemith's changeable and often enigmatic music, and the musicians play with exceptional vigor, sensitivity, and presence. While Hindemith's reputation has suffered in recent years, due to a perception that his music is too cerebral, this album will give listeners an opportunity to reassess his work, and to appreciate his considerable wit and inventiveness. The recording is clear and close up to the players, though the acoustics are fairly dry and limited in resonance.

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