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Kammermusik No 5, Op 36 No 4
Hindemith composed the seven works he called Kammermusik (‘Chamber Music’, but perhaps also with a suggestion of its root sense, ‘Room Music’) between 1921 and 1927. The fifth, for viola and chamber orchestra, dates from the latter year. Hindemith dedicated it to his old teacher at the Frankfurt Hochschule, Arnold Mendelssohn (son of a cousin of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) and played the solo part in the premiere, which took place in Berlin under Otto Klemperer on 3 November 1927. All but one of the Kammermusik pieces is a concerto for a solo instrument and chamber orchestra, each of different constitution. They are characteristic expressions of Hindemith’s first artistic maturity—and of the post-war reaction against the twin emotional excesses of Romanticism and Expressionism.

Hindemith’s instincts always tended towards the ‘objective’ musical values of strong polyphonic interest, firm structure, and Baroque stability of motion, and in the Kammermusik concertos he used these qualities to define an influential neoclassical impulse in German music, just as Stravinsky in Paris was calling for a return to Bach. The neo-Bachian element in Hindemith was strong, and in a sense his Kammermusik compositions present themselves as a twentieth-century equivalent of Bach’s ‘Brandenburg’ Concertos. In Kammermusik No 5 the soloist is accompanied by numerous wind instruments, the strings reduced to a handful of cellos and basses (the better, no doubt, to offset the viola). The first of the four short movements is fast-moving, with a steady pulse of busy neo-Baroque motion, almost a toccata for viola and ensemble. A broad, deeply felt slow movement follows, in which the viola is pitted in melancholy monologue against the rich, dark timbres of the wind instruments, with a more agitated, recitative-like central section. Next comes a highly contrapuntal scherzo, which combines elements of fugato and moto perpetuo. The finale rounds off the proceedings in uproarious style: a short series of variations on a joyously vulgar Bavarian military march finally reveals the necessity for so many wind instruments. The coda, however, has a sudden unexpectedly elegiac ring, and the music signs off with a minimum of fuss.

from notes by Malcolm MacDonald © 2011

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Details for CDA67774 track 10
Schnelle Halbe
Recording date
1 April 2010
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
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