Hyperion Records

Viola Sonata in F major, Op 11 No 4
1919; first performed by Hindemith and Emma Lübbecke-Job in Frankfurt on 2 June 1919

'Hindemith: The Complete Viola Music, Vol. 1 – Viola Sonatas' (CDA67721)
Hindemith: The Complete Viola Music, Vol. 1 – Viola Sonatas
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

Viola Sonata in F major, Op 11 No 4
Though not without original touches, this graceful and amiable sonata is one of few works which hints at the source of Hindemith’s style in the sound-world of Brahms and even Dvorák. There is also a Franco-Russian strain, perhaps heightened by a study of Debussy (whom his wartime commanding officer had especially admired). Little in the sonata’s musical language would have caused surprise in the 1890s, though few pieces of that era modulate so freely. The rather unusual form, with a short introductory movement, a theme and variations, and a finale that interrupts the variation-sequence only to resume it later, suggests the genre of fantasy-sonata cultivated by some of the Romantic composers.

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

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