Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Frankfurt RSO's album of the Violin Concerto and sonatas convince Philip Clark that Hindemith's works are worth a closer listen.
Hindemith, you feel, wasn’t interested in being a ‘public’ composer in the way of Stravinsky or Shostakovich. Arriving stateside from his native Germany during the war, he sought refuge in academia (Yale) from where he refined his hunch that using all 12 notes of the chromatic scale equally while allying them to tonal anchors was a goer – an effective halfway house between Stravinsky and Schoenberg – and he became a motivating stylistic springboard for a generation of tonally-minded American composers: Copland, Bernstein, Ned Rorem, David Del Tredici, Roy Harris, et al.
The concerto is volatile and nervy, unfolding events clearly shaking Hindemith out of his introverted mindset, but to peg this as only a ‘war’ concerto would be too easy. Unlike the emotionally neutral palette of the sonatas, the Concerto deals up extremes of contrast; a hesitant lyricism never quite allowed to make it or break it; a tense dialogue between sombre woodwind and the violin’s earnest optimism in the slow movement. Frank Peter Zimmermann persuades you that the Concerto is all heart and has been unfairly overlooked, while the sonatas appeal directly to the head.
Artists: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Enrico Pace (piano), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Philip Clark contributes to Gramophone and The Wire and is currently writing a book about Dave Brubeck.