Hindemith presented his second Sonata for unaccompanied viola Op 25 No 1 at a concert in Cologne on 18 March 1922. Since 1919 he had leapt to prominence as Germany’s leading young composer, passed swiftly through a stage as an Expressionist enfant terrible and emerged—with his Kammermusik
series—as the leader of a neo-Baroque tendency, busily neoclassical, less concerned with beauty and eloquence than the efficient and vigorous presentation of pure musical ideas: the so-called ‘New Objectivity’ (Neue Sachlichkeit). This tendency is immediately apparent in Op 25 No 1, which opens with an introductory movement that juxtaposes an aggressive chordal sequence against material of a more pleading character and quickly passes into a ‘very fresh and taut’ (Sehr frisch und straff) quicker movement. Aesthetic relief is afforded by the two fairly substantial, and musically related, lyrical slow movements—especially the moving and elegiac one with which the sonata closes. But between them comes the fourth movement, a furious outburst that carries the extraordinary marking ‘Raging tempo. Wild. Beauty of tone is of a secondary consideration’ (Rasendes Zeitmass. Wild. Tonschönheit ist Nebensache). From the initial hornet buzz of a repeated low C, this movement consists entirely of single crochets played at breakneck speed but organized according to constantly changing time-signatures: a machine-age scherzo indeed.
from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2010