The E flat major Sonata was included in the first-ever concert devoted entirely to Hindemith’s music, given in Frankfurt on 2 June 1919: a decisive event in his career, since it led to a contract with the Mainz-based publishing house of Schott, who would remain his principal publishers for the rest of his life. On that occasion Hindemith was the violinist, with his close friend Emma Lübbecke-Job at the piano. Hindemith originally thought of the work as a Sonatina; he sketched a third movement for it which he did not bother to complete, apparently feeling the two finished movements already created a satisfactory form.
The first movement is a lively affair, rhythmically driven in its outer sections, with a more lyrical central episode. Most of the material derives from the movement’s bold, fanfare-like opening—a pugnacious idea that is then contrasted with a gentler, extended theme that bespeaks the young Hindemith’s strong interest in the music of Debussy, whose work he had got to know well as it was an enthusiasm of his commanding officer on the Western Front. The movement’s harmonic language is often highly chromatic and tonally ambiguous—especially in the central episode, which wanders restlessly; the E flat tonic is emphasized at various points but is often cunningly obscured.
The second movement is a slow, solemn dance, grave and even a little ghostly in character, with an uncanny atmosphere that aligns it with the music of Ferruccio Busoni. The movement works towards a central climax, from which it unwinds towards the tonic E flat, eventually revealed in naked unison.
from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2013