HINDEMITH: Viola Sonatas – Paul Eurler (viola) Christian Rivinius (piano) / Viola Sonatas Op. 11 & 25; Solo Viola Sonatas – MD&G

HINDEMITH: Viola Sonatas – Paul Eurler (viola)/ Christian Rivinius (piano) / Viola Sonatas Op. 11 No. 4 & Op. 25 No. 4; Solo Viola Sonatas Op. 11 No. 5 & Op. 25 No. 1 – MD&G multichannel SACD (2+2+2) 9031952 (5/13/16) TT: 69:00 [Distr. by E1] ***1/2:

Hindemith viola sonatas – a first for SACD.

Violist Christian Euler’s new SACD recording of two solo sonatas and two duo sonatas with the pianist Paul Rivinius presents Hindemith’s viola works for the first time in high resolution on disc.

We don’t usually think of Hindemith’s ‘smaller’ works, but rather his large scale compositions like the Symphonic Metamorphosis and his Mathis der Mahler. In fact, Hindemith had a strong relationship to the stringed instruments. He was taught the violin as a child. He entered the Hochsche Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main where he studied conducting, composition and violin under Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles, supporting himself by playing in dance bands and musical-comedy outfits. He acted as concertmaster of the Frankfurter Museumsorchester from 1915 to 1923 and played in the Rebner string quartet from 1914 in which he played second violin, and later the viola. In 1921 he founded the Amar Quartet, playing viola, and extensively toured Europe.

So it is Hindemith’s viola works to which this disc is dedicated, and the composer has a clear affinity for this music. In fact, the young Hindemith switched completely from violin to viola at a young age.

The first work on the disc, the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 11 No. 4, was written in 1919 when Hindemith was 24. It’s a mature work, but it is unlike the sound of the later Hindemith which was more avant-garde. This work was composed in response to the death of Claude Debussy, and contains impressionistic reminiscences and offers sophisticated thematic links between the three movements.

The other works on the disc are equally rewarding, and the playing by Christian Euler and pianist Paul Rivinius is faultless and expressive.

The MD&G recording is detailed and yet restrained, with a very natural presentation. The surrounds are used sparingly for faint room acoustics cues, which I think is appropriate to the program. The disc offers a 5.1 and stereo high resolution layer, as well as standard CD tracks. As was my expectation, the high resolution tracks are kinder to the viola than the lower resolution CD layer, but on its own merits, the CD version sounds fine. This is a good disc for the listener wanting to explore beyond the more popular Hindemith compositions and absorb his earlier works.

—Mel Martin

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