HINDEMITH Viola Sonatas
Dabringhaus und Grimm served Hindemith’s sonatas well in the mid-1990s with a seven-volume survey of 31 of them by Ensemble Villa Musica (nla). Although marketed as ‘complete’ it was not: at least six sonatas – including Op 11 No 5 for unaccompanied viola featured on Christian Euler’s new disc – plus various alternative versions were never issued.
Euler and pianist Paul Rivinius enter a rather more competitive field than did Enrique Santiago, Villa Musica’s viola player. True, Kashkashian’s and Imai’s superb recordings were available but since then we have had full surveys of the seven sonatas – three with piano, four without – by the likes of Cortese, Power and, best of all and most recently, Tabea Zimmermann, as well as some brilliant individual accounts from Hosprová and Sanzo. Any newcomer has to be special indeed to thrive in such a market.
Euler and Rivinius perform the first four sonatas, written between 1919 and 1922, and their strong accounts are not embarrassed by comparisons. Euler has a warm, rich tone not far from Cortese’s – as can be heard in the opening of Op 11 No 4 – but his playing has more steel than the American’s; his view of the unaccompanied sonatas is more compelling than Weber’s, akin to Hosprová’s. In Rivinius he has a fine partner in Op 11 No 4 and Op 25 No 4, no less supportive than Crawford-Phillips for Power or Hoppe for Zimmermann. If these new accounts do not displace the best (still Zimmermann’s, with Power’s a fine alternative), they are still recommendable. MDG’s sound is clear, the acoustic natural. Hopefully the later three sonatas (written between 1923 and 1939) will follow on in due course.