Movement 1: Schnelle Halbe
Movement 2: Langsam
Movement 3: Mässig schnell
Movement 4: Variante eines Militärmarsches
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