Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Self-recommending Hindemith

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 Grażyna 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.

The Amar Quartet is named after the original group in which Hindemith himself played the viola. Here is the first movement of Quartet no. 4, op. 22, by the young Amars:

And by their forebears:

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