Movement 1: Lebhaft: Bewegte Halbe
Movement 2: Ruhig gehend
Movement 3: Lebhaft
Movement 4: Leicht bewegt
Movement 5: Sehr lebhaft
There are five movements this time. The first is a cheerful, bustling, busily contrapuntal fast movement, typically marked Lebhaft: Bewegte Halbe (‘Lively: nimble quavers’—Hindemith’s tempo indications are often like written-out metronome marks). It has something of the character of a fast march, during which the viola is called upon to display considerable bravura—though it winds down at length to a quiet close. Without a break, heavy wind chords with a melancholic cor anglais solo announce the slow movement, which largely evolves as a peaceful melodic dialogue between viola and wind. A massive reminiscence of the movement’s opening leads to an accompanied cadenza before a sinuous coda for viola, clarinet, and the low strings.
The third movement is a brief scherzo beginning with excited wind-instrument flourishes and manic moto perpetuo figuration from the viola: when the main theme gets purposefully under way the melodic interest remains in the wind while the soloist, with considerable exercise of virtuosity, must buzz about like a demented wasp. There follows a smoother, more amiable intermezzo movement which shows off the viola’s melodic qualities and includes another cadenza-like passage, leading without a break into a quick finale (more like a coda), full of witty quips passed between soloist and ensemble, none more decisive than the business-like final cadence.
from notes by Malcolm MacDonald ©