SCHUBERT: Sonata in a Minor, D. 821 “Arpeggione”; BENJAMIN: Sonata for Viola and Piano; PAGANINI: Caprice No. 9: Allegretto; HUBAY: Der Zephir – Hartmut Lindemann, viola/Megumi Hashiba, piano/ Roman Viazovskly, guitar – Tacet 143, 76:35 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:Hartmut Lindemann provides the usually scanty viola repertory some outstanding transcriptions, notably his musically gratifying transposition of the D Minor Sonata by Schumann, which Lindemann first presented in 2000 with pianist Hashiba. The aim here (2006) was to complement the viola versions of the Brahms clarinet sonatas with a major work by Schumann, so often the major influence on Brahms himself. Utilizing a “tenor viola” enhances the mid-range radiance of the instrumental colors, with no loss of the vibrancy and idiomatic melodiousness of the original. Certain other adjustments ensue, as Lindemann uses the high G and C strings to effect a “sul ponticello” directive by the composer. Hashiba’s Steinway D elicits its own autumnal colors, often of a virtuosic character. The octave leaps in the last movement quite tax Lindemann’s mettle, but he carries off the appearance of easy grace with admirable execution.
Lindemann performs Schubert’s uncanny Arpeggione Sonata with guitar accompaniment, a combinaton that strikingly approximates what the original instrument may have done for itself. Lindemann can deliver a “cello” tone with ease, lush and pliant at once. In his accompanying notes, Lindemann writes of searching for the “smile behind the tears” in Schubert. The fluency of the lyrical impulse, Lindemann’s high-bridged cantabile, compels our affection, as well as comparisons with Feuermann’s and Cassado’s cellos. If this were intended to be a “salon” performance, the scale of sound transcends that limit and ascends to rarer atmospheres. Lovely guitar effects in movements two and three, a real serenade of Iberian beauty by way of Vienna.
Arthur Benjamin’s Viola Sonata was written for William Primrose, who immediately praised its virtuosic qualities. The hands ply the entire fingerboard, creating effects that can be throaty and gruff to high-pitched, pointillist moments not far from Webern. In its lyrical episodes, a sweet melancholy pervades the piece, and we can easily place Lindemann’s inscription next to that of Primrose, if we had it. Originally entitled “Elegy, Waltz, and Toccata,” the three movements furnish the solo with contrasting, mercurial elements for bravura display. The keyboard part, especially in the waltz section, proves audacious, while the viola effects some buzzing, improvised character alternating with martial impulses. The Toccata whirls, certainly, but it no less projects a manic, surreal drive, the registrations of the figures shifting virtually at every bar. The spirit of Hindemith seems nigh as the academic and the virtuosic compete for musical space.
The two short pieces, Paganini’s Ninth Caprice “La Chasse,” and Hubay’s “Zehpyr,” each ask for double-notes and swift alternation of bowed and plucked notes. The use of upbows in the Paganini creates some thrilling moments in the articulation of the staccati flute effects. The Zephyr derives from a 1982 Intercord LP, and it reveals more of the fire demon in Lindemann, who wanted broken triads to dazzle our ears. The middle enjoys a sincerity of expression, despite Lindemann’s later reservations about the reading.