The Amar Quartet’s Equally Excellent Hindemith Vol. 2

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

This second volume in Naxos’ series of the complete Hindemith quartets contains two of the composer’s largest and best works in the medium. The Fifth Quartet (1923) represents an apotheosis of the composer’s early, experimental phase. The music is chromatic and relentlessly contrapuntal, but also brilliant and even fun (in its third movement). It culminates in an imposing passacaglia that, like the opening double fugue, is remarkably easy to follow while at the same time sounding amazingly modern.

The Sixth Quartet dates from 20 years later, but like its predecessor it can be said to summarize the more lyrical, tonal, mature idiom of the composer’s American period. Sample the gorgeous theme of the work’s third-movement variations (sound clip), one of Hindemith’s most captivating inspirations. The brief Seventh Quartet is altogether lighter, a diverting work written for the composer to play with his wife and students. Surely its premiere performance wasn’t as fine as this one.

As with the previous releases in this series, the performances are all outstanding. The Amar Quartet, named after Hindemith’s own ensemble of the early 20th century, plays this music with a proprietary gusto worthy of the name. All of these pieces are, as already noted, highly contrapuntal—even the genial Seventh Quartet ends with a canon; but the playing here never sounds dry or mechanical, and the sonics are first rate. Connoisseurs of chamber music will find this disc an endless source of pleasure.

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