Movement 1: Breit – Mit Kraft
Movement 2: Sehr lebhaft
Movement 3: Phantasie: Sehr langsam, frei
Movement 4: Finale, mit zwei Variationen: Leicht bewegt – Ein wenig langsamer – Sehr lebhaft
This four-movement Sonata for viola and piano, which he premiered at Harvard on 18 April 1939, has unexpected affinities—from the standpoint of Hindemith’s most mature idiom—with the early F major Sonata, insofar as it possesses a ‘Phantasie’ movement, the finale includes two variations, and the work itself is more or less centred on F, though neither major not minor but a continual blend of the two. (In fact the work has no declared key-signature, and as a result has sometimes been incorrectly designated as a ‘Sonata in C’.) On the other hand it speaks entirely with the voice of the mature Hindemith, in strong, confident and sustained polyphonic lines. The determined and ardent first movement has an overall sonata shape, with a more tranquil subsidiary theme; working to an impressive climax, it displays the increased emotional warmth typical of Hindemith’s works of the late 1930s, a quality which indeed informs the whole sonata. There follows a powerful Scherzo, playing with rapidly changing lengths of bar, and with an emphatic rhythmic tag which Hindemith develops with great resource and sardonic wit while the piano contributes fanfare-like figures and perpetuum mobile accompaniments, or sinisterly stalks the viola in staccato.
The ‘Phantasie’ slow movement proves to be a rhapsodic and increasingly dramatic blend of recitative and arioso, the viola now well to the fore. The finale begins affably enough, and its second subject emerges as a miniature march. But instead of a conventional development these materials are treated in two highly contrasted variations, the first mysterious and capricious, the piano contributing bird-like warbles and runs, the second more decisive and vigorous, sweeping the sonata to a triumphant conclusion on a unison F.
from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2009