HINDEMTIH; SCHOENBERG String Trios
These three highly contrasted string trios, written at roughly 10-year intervals between 1924 and 1946, almost chart the course of music in the first half of the 20th century. Hindemith’s First is the least familiar, composed with his customary fluency in early 1924. Its four vivid movements show Hindemith the refashioner (rather than iconoclast) of neoclassical forms, as in the Toccata and Fugue which bookend the wildly contrasting central Langsam and quicksilver, mostly pizzicato Scherzo with their echoes of Baroque dance.
Hindemith’s Second (1933) was written for him to play in his newly formed trio with Szymon Goldberg and Emanuel Feuermann. In the mature style developed through the Konzertmusik, Op 50, oratorio Das Unaufhörliche and, of course, Mathis der Maler, it was immediately declared ‘entartet’ (degenerate) by the Nazis. Schoenberg’s sole Trio (1946; ‘waltz-haunted’, as Arnold Whittall vividly described it – A/10) is a late 12-note work, written in the shadow of life-threatening illness. The range of moods – including black humour – are as broad as those in Hindemith’s First but this is a work of greater depth at the point just before serialism took its firm grip on post-war music.
Schoenberg’s Trio has fared rather better on disc with over twice the number of currently available recordings than both of Hindemith’s combined. There are some strong historical exponents, not least the Juilliard and LaSalle Quartets, as well as modern ones such as the Schoenberg Quartet or Leopold Trio, but Trio Zimmermann need fear no comparisons. This is a highly virtuoso and deeply expressive performance to rank with any. Their superb ensemble and flawless intonation make their Hindemith trios easily superior to the competition (and are more generously coupled). BIS’s sound is superb.