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Hyperion Records

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Lightning across glass building by Lincoln Seligman (b1950)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67769
Recording details: April 2009
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2010
Total duration: 18 minutes 37 seconds

'Power's warmly rounded tone and searching interpretations cast the most favourable possible light on this wonderful if sometimes astringent music … though such fine players as Nobuko Imai and Kim Kashkashian 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' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Power's performances—characterised by his trademark tonal richness and easy, almost nonchalant technical brilliance—leave no doubt about the weighty seriousness of the music, and its significance for Hindemith' (The Guardian)

'Aided and abetted by Hyperion's close, lifelike recording quality, Power gives an absolutely stunning demonstration of viola playing, with no concessions to Hindemith's daunting demands' (The Strad)

'Paul Hindemith, himself a major viola player, left one of the most important of 20th-century legacies for his own instrument, including the four solo sonatas recorded here. They make a protean collection … Op 25 No 1, written in 1922 when Hindemith was at his most radical, includes a movement marked 'Wild. Tonal beauty is of minor importance.' Lawrence Power easily encompasses the many moods. He has a giant sound at his command – he can make the instrument sound as if it’s being played by a man striding with seven league boots—and he makes every moment gripping' (The Irish Times)

'L'équilibre trouvé par l'altiste Lawrence Power … est tout simplement parfait. Paul Hindemith gagne beaucoup à être fréquenté par de tels talents' (Classica, France)

Sonata for solo viola, Op 11 No 5
21 July 1919; first performed by Hindemith on 14 November 1920 in Friedburg

Scherzo: Schnell  [2'55]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Hidemith's first Sonata for unaccompanied viola Op 11 No 5 is the fifth of the five stringed-instrument sonatas which he began in 1918 while still serving in the German army on the Western Front, completed after his return home to Frankfurt in early 1919 and published together as his Opus 11. At that time it was an almost unheard-of gesture to group together so many works as subdivisions of a single opus, and it indicated Hindemith’s desire to put away Romantic attitudes, such as the idea that every composition was a complete and utterly separate work of art. Admittedly Brahms and Reger had sometimes published chamber works in pairs or threes, but by encompassing such a large number of fair-sized works Hindemith was going back to the examples of Haydn or even Handel, providing a collection from which performers might choose. He was quick off the mark in giving the first performance of the sister sonata (Op 11 No 4) for viola and piano, but he did not premiere the solo sonata, Op 11 No 5—perhaps inevitably the most taxing of them all—until 14 November 1920, in a recital in Friedburg, though it was sketched by 21 July 1919.

Op 11 No 5 reflects something of the influences which were still helping Hindemith to shape his personal identity in music. Brahms, Reger and César Franck are hinted at in the ‘lively but not hurried’ (Lebhaft, aber nicht geeilt) first movement; there is a tincture of Debussy (beloved by Hindemith’s commanding officer at the front) in the rhapsodic slow movement. Hindemith instructed his new publishers, Schotts Söhne of Mainz, to set this movement’s central section in smaller type, as a kind of evanescent parenthesis. The succeeding scherzo, too, has a touch of Impressionist fantasy, reminding us of the ‘moonstruck Pierrot’ depicted in Debussy’s 1914 Cello Sonata. These three movements are all quite short, but the finale is a massive variation movement headed ‘In the Form and Tempo of a Passacaglia’ (In Form und Zeitmass einer Passacaglia). Hindemith’s ultimate model is unmistakably the famous D minor Chaconne from Bach’s Violin Partita BWV1004, but viewed through a post-Brahmsian sense of sonority and architecture that produces a truly contemporary result. This ardent (and arduous) movement, a most impressive compositional feat, is the first example of a form which was to be one of Hindemith’s trademarks throughout his career, and it makes the Sonata something of a personal manifesto of artistic ambition.

from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2010

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