If you somehow missed each individual release in the Amar Quartet’s outstanding Hindemith cycle for Naxos, all three volumes now are bundled together, so there’s no excuse. Since my colleague David Hurwitz accurately praised the first two volumes in detail, I’d like to focus on Volume 3, which contains Quartets Nos. 1 and 4.
Hindemith’s very first quartet (Op. 2) was a student composition, written when he was 19, premiered in 1915, and then forgotten. It came to light 23 years after the composer’s death in 1986, and was published eight years later. While the musical style reflects the opulent harmonies of late German romanticism, seeds of the mature Hindemith abound in the assuredRead more contrapuntal writing and light-footed motoric rhythms. The Scherzo in particular is a harbinger of the brash, freewheeling, more dissonantly-tinged style typifying Hindemith’s works from the 1920s. Here the Amar Quartet’s textural transparency and rhythmic élan surpasses the Danish Quartet’s more emphatic, less differentiated reading.
The 1921 Fourth quartet is essentially a suite in five movements, where Hindemith’s early style operates at full tilt, awash with great ideas. The opening fugato’s lyrical repose soon shifts to loud outbursts, while the second movement’s forceful wildness contrasts to the third movement’s relatively exposed writing, where long, sustained muted cantabiles are supported by soft pizzicatos. The fourth movement is essentially a short introduction to the lively yet understated contrapuntal finale.
The Amar Quartet revels in the music’s color and characterful diversity. For example, the players bring more breadth and vocally oriented phrasing to the aforementioned fugato in comparison to the Danish Quartet’s animated reserve, while also bringing a wider degree of tempo fluctuation and forward thrust to the fourth movement. Only in the second movement do I prefer the Danish Quartet; its cleaner unison attacks and more incisive accentuation impart an appropriately bleak demeanor that foreshadows Shostakovich. Yet in light of Naxos’ superior sonic bloom and the musicians’ overall excellence, you won’t find a more satisfying Hindemith Quartet cycle on disc. All serious chamber music fans should get to know these works and these performances.
Extremely ApproachableMay 7, 2017By Jonathan S. (Anchorage, AK)See All My Reviews"I have been wanting to expand my String Quartet experience beyond the mid Romantic period, and I had no idea what to expect from this collection or even Hindemith. I was pleasantly entertained. I found the Amar Quartet's playing to be superb; their phrasing, intonation and interplay is what is expected from a Quartet, and was flawlessly executed while sounding like they were still having fun. The music reminded me very much of Beethoven, but with a fresh quality. I found myself carried along with the music, and was never perplexed with where it lead me or how I got there. I had "AHA" moments in the music and I'm looking forward to listening again for deeper understanding and am intent in making Hindemith's Quartets as much a friend as any of my other music."Report Abuse
Self-recommending HindemithMarch 5, 2017By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"Back in the old days I used to read the reviews in Gramophone magazine, to get some guidance about which LPs I should buy with my meagre budget. A reviewer would often recommend a disc, and sometimes highly recommend one. Very occasionally he (it was pretty much always a he then) would use the phrase "self-recommending", which I took to mean that you should go out right away and purchase that disc. An obvious transaction, a done deal. That's the case here. These three CDs of Paul Hindemith's seven string quartets have all been previously released, from recordings made in 2011 and 2015, but it's so convenient to have them collected in one set, and at a discount to boot. The music is outstanding; Hindemith's string quartet series is as varied and interesting as those by Villa-Lobos and Gra?yna Bacewicz, and just as under-rated. The playing of the young Amar Quartet is really amazing; for me it was revelatory. They bring a warmth and humanity to this music that I didn't realize was there before. This is besides the technical merit of their playing and the precision with which they render Hindemith's more involved and academic passages. The recording is by Swiss Radio, and it matches both the precision of the musicians and their warmth."Report Abuse