This release spans the breadth of Paul Hindemith’s writings for the viola, from solo sonata through music for viola and orchestra. Hindemith was a violist himself, and his compositions fully realize the instrument’s potential. Violist Antoine Tamestit fully understands these works and their creator, as his interview printed in the booklet shows — as do his performances.
Tamestit notes that there is a lot of humor in Hindemith’s music, and he brings it out in all of these works. Still, I’d have to characterize the orchestral works here as ones of mournful beauty. “Der Schwanendreher” is a reworking of folk songs relating to isolation and loss, composed when Hindemith was being force out of musical life by the Nazis. Tamestit subtly brings out those emotions, making the music sound wistful rather than maudlin.
“Trauermusik” explores similar themes. Hindemith’s thickly-textured harmonies provide a melancholy accompaniment to the yearning melody of the viola. Paavo Jarvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra perform with a warm, blended sound that’s ideally suited to these works.
Tamestit’s performance of the solo sonata Op. 25, No. 1 is a wonderful balance of emotional expression and tasteful restraint. The structural elements are all clearly delineated, and the motives are carefully phrased to help the listener connect them as the work goes along. And yet there’s a fiery passion continually roiling under the music, straining to break free.
Hindemith’s sonata for viola and piano, Op. 11, No. 4 is a beautiful collaboration between Tamestit and pianist Markus Hadulla. At times the music seems to have a sweetness to it that’s quite charming. As with the best chamber music performances, one has a sense of eavesdropping on a conversation. In this case, one between two good friends.
Paul Hindemith; Sonata Op. 11 No. 4 for viola and piano; sonata Op. 25, No. 1 for solo viola; Der Schwanendreher; Trauermusik
Antoine Tamestit, viola; Markus Hadulla, piano; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra; Paavo Jarvi, conductor