Hindemith’s Violin Sonatas date from crucial years both in his life and in the history of his native Germany. The first two from Op 11 were begun in 1918 while Hindemith was serving in the German army and still to fully establish himself as a composer, while the other pair (without opus number) date from the gathering darkness of the mid-to-late 1930s; indeed, the remarkably serene C major work was written once he had exiled himself to Switzerland.
Such anti-Romantic impulses as there are behind the Op 11 works (for example, the seemingly utilitarian grouping of six string-instrument sonatas together in a single opus) are not always obvious in the music: the E flat Sonata opens with arresting gestures designed to let the performers show off, which Tanja Becker-Bender and Péter Nagy seize with relish. They give generally spacious readings of all four Sonatas, yet are not as compelling as Frank Peter Zimmermann and Enrico Pace on the most recent competition (BIS); nor does Becker-Bender’s playing match Zimmermann’s for sweetness of tone. Still, Hyperion’s team is rewarding in the large-scale challenges of the D major Sonata, and attuned to the sonatina-like scale of the E major work. A transcription of the Meditation from Hindemith’s ballet Nobilissima visione bears testimony to the composer’s pacifism.