Hindemith’s Violin Sonatas Plus

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Hindemith’s popularity may have waned since the 1960s, yet his wonderful violin sonatas thrive on disc, with several stellar versions available. Roman Mints now enters the ring, offering nearly all of Hindemith’s works for violin and piano. I say “nearly” because Mints leaves out the E-flat Op. 11 No. 1 sonata’s unfinished and abandoned finale that Ulf Wallin recorded for BIS. However, Mints includes the Trauermusik Suite (designated by the composer for either violin, viola, or cello soloist), and the Meditation from Nobilissima Visione. Mints also appropriates the viola d’amore sonata for his own instrument.

Overall, Mints’ performances are commanding and strong, abetted by Alexander Kobrin’s expert piano support. The musicians dig into the E-flat Op. 11 No. 1’s gnarly first movement with emphatic ferocity, while austerely aligning the relatively calm second movement’s delicate counterpoint. The Viola D’Amore sonata’s abrasive finale arguably makes a brighter impact vis-à-vis the violin’s higher register and more piercing double stops. Mints and Kobrin serve up the C major sonata’s opening Lebhaft movement and the E major sonata second movement’s witty scherzo section in a forthright and heavy-gaited manner. It markedly differs from the lither and leaner Frank Peter Zimmermann/Enrico Pace readings. I prefer the latter, along with the Tanja Becker-Bender/Péter Nagy edition.

On the other hand, the intense dramatic contrasts and cultivated ensemble work that Mints and Kobrin bring to Trauermusik’s first movement make a compelling case for hearing the original string orchestra scoring in a piano reduction. Since neither the present disc, the Hyperion CD, nor the two BIS releases offer exactly the same contents, a clear-cut recommendation is difficult. Furthermore, both BIS discs contain superb performances of Hindemith’s tricky unaccompanied Violin Sonata, while Zimmermann gives us the best modern-day recording of Hindemith’s once-popular/now-underrated Violin Concerto. It’s probably best to sample all four CDs, and download your preferred tracks. Quartz Music’s booklet includes superlative and informative annotations about the music by Guy Richards, plus a heartfelt essay by Mints in which he discusses his long relationship with and advocacy of Hindemith’s music.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Zimmermann/Pace (BIS); Becker-Bender/Nagy (Hyperion)

  • HINDEMITH, PAUL:
    Violin Sonatas Op. 11 No. 1, Op 11 No. 2; Violin Sonata in E major; Violin Sonata in C major; Nobilissima visione: Meditation; Kleine Sonate for Viola D’Amore & Piano Op. 25 No. 2; Trauermusik
  • Roman Mints (violin); Alexander Kobrin (piano)

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