20th Century Piano Sonatas
Berg’s Op 1 (1908) and Hindemith’s Second Sonata (1936) might seem strange bedfellows, especially given Hindemith’s antipathy to atonality, but they connect via the major work on offer here, Hartmann’s blistering sonata 27 April 1945. Provoked by seeing a line of prisoners from Dachau troop in seemingly endless misery, Hartmann’s sonata transmutes Berg’s harmonic complexity with Hindemith’s formal rigour into a work of exponential expressive intensity.
Allison Brewster Franzetti’s thought-provoking programme is completed by three pieces by Schoenberg, not the Op 11 set but the early group of 1894. Given the disc’s title, the Schoenberg set (neither a sonata nor even 20th-century) could scarcely be more out of place had they been scored for wind quintet. They do make an effective contrast, true, but in such company seem insubstantial. Webern’s Variations, written as a kind of mini-sonata, would have been more apposite, especially as Hartmann studied privately with the Austrian.
Franzetti is a persuasive advocate throughout, taking the Berg at a fast pace – two minutes fleeter than, say, Uchida (Philips, 6/01) – but alive to its structural felicities. Her account of the Hindemith is genial and delightful, close to Petermandl (Marco Polo), and preferable to Bernard Roberts (Nimbus, 11/96) and Kalle Randalu (MDG, A/98). The Hartmann, given here with both versions of the finale, is powerful and a match for Siegfried Mauser’s pioneering account (Wergo – nla). The Naxos sound is fine but I did not care overmuch for the tone of the Blüthner grand used.