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Hindemith: String Quartets Vol 1 / Amar Quartet

Hindemith / Amar Quartet
Release Date: 05/29/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572163   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Paul Hindemith
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amar String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Swiss Amar Quartet is named for Hindemith’s own group, formed for the premiere of the Third Quartet in C major (1920), included on this first disc in what promises to be a complete quartet cycle. As we all know, Hindemith was a very serious composer, and these are big, serious quartets, but they are by no means impenetrable. Busy, yes, “notey” for sure, but also full of good music and certainly worth the serious consideration of chamber music aficionados. The booklet notes speak of quartet writing in the tradition of Brahms and Reger, and that’s a good place to start, but Hindemith was himself a string player, and perhaps this helps to prevent his textures from sounding quite as heavy as with
Read more those other two composers, even though he’s often just as dense.

The Second Quartet (1918) is a wartime work, though you’d never know it. Its three movements grow progressively longer; indeed, the first movement is as tightly constructed as something by Haydn, whereas the finale is a virtuoso extravaganza that lasts more than 15 minutes. Still, the thematic invention is memorable, melodic, and not anything like the relentlessly acerbic Hindemith of the 1920s, or the mature composer of the mid 1930s and later. The Third Quartet finds him moving toward that 1920s style, with increasing chromaticism within a basically tonal framework, and a much more balanced three-movement form. Once again, this is virtuoso music for the players, but the heart of the work is the deeply expressive central slow movement, which is very beautifully sustained in this performance.

Indeed, I strongly doubt that Hindemith’s own quartet played these pieces nearly this well. He was by all accounts a rather dry performer, whereas this particular Amar Quartet invests the music with considerable warmth and manages to maintain a remarkably attractive ensemble tone even in the two finales where everyone is going crazy. I offer a segment of the Third Quartet’s finale as an example of just how pleasing this group sounds at all dynamic and pitch levels. If they keep up this standard, there is little doubt that this will become the reference edition in this music, and perhaps will win for it the friends that it surely deserves. The engineering is ideal, and does the performances proud.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings [no 3] in C major, Op. 16 by Paul Hindemith
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amar String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; Germany 
Quartet for Strings [no 2] in F minor, Op. 10 by Paul Hindemith
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amar String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Astoundingly splendid works and playing August 25, 2015 By Donald Mintz See All My Reviews "If one tends to think of Hindemith as a master of lots and lots and lots of often dull counterpoint, think again. This quartets are astonishing in their range of emotion and at the same time impressively contrapuntal for the most part. They are a revelation. The performance is beyond compare, seeking out the genuinely moving as well as the genuinely amusing. And a small secret here: they use more portamento than do most players today and probably approach the style of the original Amar Quartet of the 1920s, the quartet in which Hindemith played viola. The effect, particularly in No. 4 (on another disk in the series) is astonishing. Donald Mintz Prof emeritus, music history, Montclair State University." Report Abuse
 Better than some, but not the best August 1, 2012 By Margery G. (Hudson, MA) See All My Reviews "I am very fond of Hindemith's String Quartet No. 2, and bought this disk because (based on the samples) it sounded more interesting than the Danish Quartet's rather staid and dry recording (in their set of all the Hindemith quartets). It does have more life than the Danish, but still doesn't compare to the old Nonesuch LP recording (back when this was still called Quartet No.1) by the Stuyvesant String Quartet. The Amar Quartet seems to pull back from the musical climaxes that Hindemith built into the score. I think the performers need to give more consideration to the influence of Romanticism on Hindemith's early music. Sometimes he let phrases build over a very long arc, and it is disappointing when the end-point is squashed or held back.

The performance is well-recorded, however, and worth the purchase."
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