Movement 1: Fantasie: Ruhig
Movement 2: Thema mit Variationen I-IV
Movement 3: Finale, mit Variationen: Sehr lebhaft, alla breve, in wechselnder Taktart – Variationen V-VII – Coda: Sehr lebhaft und erregt
The first movement’s lulling initial melody might almost be by Brahms, though the chromatic harmonization of its counter-statement points to César Franck. A cadenza-like passage leads into the variation movement, whose folk-song-flavoured theme is rather redolent of the Russian nationalist school (Borodin, say, filtered through Debussy). The ensuing four variations are more individual, however, with the part-writing turning increasingly into real polyphony.
The finale disrupts the process: it resembles a self-contained sonata-form movement with two contrasting ideas—the first assertive, with a prominent three-note rhythmic figure, and the second a gentle, lullaby-like tune, one of the most frankly Romantic melodies in Hindemith’s entire output. After an extended development, however, the sequence of variations begun in the previous movement resumes with a final group of three: one gently flowing, a livelier fugato, and a coda where the folk-song-like theme has the last word.
from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2009