The music of Paul Hindemith can't be called crowd-pleasing. Even the overtly radical works of Schoenberg and Webern carried well-defined innovations that listeners might be excited by or reject, but with Hindemith there's always the sense that he is experimenting with the solution to a new problem each time out. Of course, this can just as easily be a stimulating challenge as a problem, and this collection of works for a single instrument from across Hindemith's career provides a good way into his music. Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, joined in Hindemith's sole full-scale violin concerto (quite an underplayed work, perhaps because it is so atypical) by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, deliver very strong performances expertly modulated to works of very different types. The performers show little faith in their audience by beginning with the Violin Concerto of 1939, for it really belongs at the end of the career traced by the four works for violin and piano or violin solo. The concerto is an unusually passionate work for Hindemith, and annotator Malcolm MacDonald is probably right in linking it to the composer's reaction to the outbreak of World War II. The smaller works are, true to form, all different: the Debussy-influenced Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 11/1, the almost whimsical Sonata for solo violin, Op. 31/2, the coolly abstract Violin Sonata in E major of 1935, and the entirely novel Violin Sonata in C major of 1939, each of whose movements is longer than the one that precedes it. Zimmermann and Järvi give a sense of this music as it unfolded against the backdrop of the Weimar Republic and the increasing Nazi cultural oppression that followed it, and they communicate something of the elusive whole that lies behind Hindemith's individual utterances. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto for Violin and Orchestra|
|Sonata for Solo Violin, "Es ist so schönes Wetter draussen", Op. 31 No. 2|
|Sonata in E flat, for violin and piano, Op. 11 No. 1|
|Sonata in E, for violin and piano|
|Sonata in C, for violin and piano|