Juilliard String Quartet
With this CD, WERGO starts recording all Hindemith string quartets with the Juilliard String Quartet. These recordings will certainly be looked forward to not only by lovers of Hindemith's music but also by the musicians themselves: "Though the string quartets represent but a small part of Hindemith's tremendous and all inclusive output, we nevertheless feel that they are quite significant in the context of his career as a performer and composer", says violist Samuel Rhodes in the liner notes of the CD booklet. "We are challenged by the depth of the musical content, the extraordinary enthusiasm, and the sophistication of compositional technique that exist in these works."
A special event in Hindemith's career as a musician and composer is connected with the string quartet No. 3: The work was to be performed for the first time at the contemporary music festival at Donaueschingen in 1921; however, the ensemble originally designated for the performance seemed to be greatly concerned by the difficulties of the work. As a consequence, Hindemith formed his own ensemble - the Amar Quartet that started a successful career with Hindemith as violist. Owing to the work's success, Hindemith became all at once a well-known composer, the epitome of a great young talent, in the musical scenes of both Germany and Europe.
With string quartet No. 5 composed in 1923, Hindemith created a work that combines strict contrapunctal techniques with melodic expressiveness but also with the impulsiveness and enthusiasm that are typical of him.
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We ore honored to hove the opportunity to present on the Wergo label our performances of Paul Hindemith's string quartets on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. Though they represent but a small part of Hindemith's tremendous and all inclusive output, we nevertheless feel that they are quite significant in the context of his career as a performer and composer.
The first five quartets must be looked at in the context of Hindemith as a performing musician. He was trained as a violinist of the Frankfurt Konservatorium and became concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera soon after his graduation. The first quartet, op. 2, his first work of any length, won a composition prize at the conservatory In 1917, he was drafted info the German army and was stationed in France just behind the front. Thanks to a commanding officer who loved music, Hindemith was allowed to relieve the tedium of playing in the regimental band by forming a quartet in which he played first violin. It was here on the western front that he composed the second quartet, op. 10. This work was known to all of us as the first quartet until very recently Opus 2 only existed in manuscript and was never published during Hindemith's lifetime. Its recent publication by Schott has necessitated a revision of the number designations of all the subsequent quartets.
Upon his discharge from the army, Hindemith was incessantly active both as a performer and a composer From 1919 on, he began to play more and more viola eventually becoming one of the foremost viola soloists of his generation. He was composing one work after another, three one-act operas, several duo and solo sonatas for strings and piano, and a wind quintet among other things. His third string quartet, op. 16, was composed in 1920. The success this work had carried him to fame on both the composing and performing fronts. It was triumphantly performed at the first contemporary music festival at Donoueschingen by a quartet specially assembled for that occasion The Amor Quartet with Hindemith as violist went on from that moment to hove successful career which lasted for most of the 1920s They toured all over Europe playing as many as 129 concerts per season(1).
Although the Amor Quartet played a good portion of the standard masterpieces of the repertoire, they specialized in the music of their time. In their repertoire were the first two quartets of Bartok, the first two of Schoenberg, and the Three Pieces and Concertino of Stravinsky. They gave the world premiere of the Six Bagatelles of Webern In 1925 they recorded the Bartok second quartet, the first recording ever of a Bartok quartet Hindemith was to write two more quartets for the Amor's as well as a String Trio, op 34, the Clarinet Quintet. op. 30, and a solo sonata for each member including himself The fourth quartet, op. 22 (1921), become the work that they performed the most over the years and, indeed, has become one of the most popular pieces that Hindemith wrote. The fifth, op 32 (1923), was a highly original work where Baroque formal ideas were combined with Hindemith's own overflowing energy and typical harmonic.
Hindemith was not to compose another quartet for twenty years. By that time, he had emigrated to the United States from the mid thirties on he experienced increasing difficulties from the Nozi regime which found his music too "modern, bolshevik, and un-German" for its taste The official opposition persisted and grew in spite of a newspaper article defending him by his friend and strong advocate of his music, the celebrated conductor, Whilhelm Furtwongler, and in the face of the growing popularity and many performances of his Mothis der maler symphony. By the late thirties all performances of his music were banned in Germany and Austrio, and he had no choice but to leave his native country. He had made three successful tours of the United States in 1937, '38 and '39 performing and conducting his music. The friendships that were mode on these trips led to on invitation to come to the US to stay and, eventually to the offer of a secure teaching position at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut In this way, Hindemith become one of those who were able to find in the United States a safe haven from the terrible events going on in Europe Many of the people who emigrated were extremely distinguished in the arts, sciences, medicine, and academic fields. They have made on immeasurable contribution to every aspect of life in the United States.
Four people who emigrated to the United States at this same time who, like Hindemith. were certainly distinguished in the arts were the members of the Budapest String Quartet They were offered, through the generosity of Mrs Gertrude Clark Whinan, the use of four Stradivari instruments and a residency at the library of Congress in Washington. DC In 1943, they commissioned Hindemith to write a quartet for them He obliged with his usual speed and facility and the resultant sixth quartet was premiered at the Library on November 7, 1943.
Hindemith's wife, Gertrud, hod not been able to come with him on any of his trips to the US She finally arrives about six months after he emigrated permanently in 1940 As she adjusted to life in New Haven, she decided to study the cello. Hindemith wrote his seventh, and what would prove to be his lost quartet for her in 1945. He hod slopped performing professionally for some years and only played for fun within the context of his Yale teaching activities. The work was performed as "Hausmusik" by the Hindemith couple and two violin students from Yale. The Budapest played a public premiere of the work at the library in 1946.
After World War II, Hindemith become more interested in conducting and in composing large orchestral works and operas He was to produce only two more chamber music works, the Septet for Winds in 1948 and the Octet for Winds and Strings in 1957- 58.
My colleagues and I hove been fascinated by the Hindemith quartets for some time. We ore challenged by the depth of the musical content, the extraordinary enthusiasm, and the sophistication of compositional technique that exist in these works No less intriguing for us is their historical context within the life of Hindemith and within the events, musical and otherwise, of the twentieth century. We sincerely hope that this recording will help to give these imaginative works the recognition they deserve.
String Quartet No. 3, op. 16
The success of this quartet is the event responsible for bringing Hindemith to the attention of the German and, eventually, to the European musical world as a bright young composing talent As related in the superb biography of the composer by Geoffrey Skelton, it was written in early 1920 and submitted to a competition sponsored by Elizobeth Sprague Coolidge at South Mountain in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Its subsequent rejection caused the composer to be somewhat secretive about the piece but close friends of his sent it for consideration to the new contemporary music festival at Donoueschingen. It was eagerly accepted by the budding festival whose first year was about to occur in the summer of 1921. The group to whom the piece was first offered thought it too difficult for the amount of lime available. Hindemith, therefore, took matters into his own hands forming a quartet with himself as violist, his brother, Rudolf as cellist, and two violinists from the Mannheim Notional theater, the concertmaster, Licco Amar, and Woller Caspar. Thus was born the Amar Quartet and their first performance together was the first performance of the Quartet No. 3 opus 16, of its violist on August 1, 1921 at the very first Donaueschinge'n Festival. In the wake of their initial success, they wisely decided to continue playing together as they developed a brilliantly successful career which soon hod them playing all throughout the European continent.
The personality of the young composer becomes more and more apparent in this composition although he is still experimenting with different styles and influences. The first movement, cost in a loose sonata allegro form, is full of vitality and drive. Its major influence is the Schoenberg of the first quartet. The slow movement is prime example of Hindemith's expressionist style. It is deeply felt, dork in texture, and imaginatively coloristic in its use of the instruments. The long extensions of the thematic material are as close as the composer come to being self-indulgent, a quality he was to reject in the works that immediately followed this one. The Finale is sprightly in character and diatonic in harmonic concept making it the exact opposite of the previous movement. It is perhaps influenced by the music of his friend, Darius Milhoud.
String Quartet No. 5, op. 32
The fifth quartet was composed in 1923 and given its first performance in Vienna on November 5 of the some year by the Amor Quartet. Hindemith succeeded in creating a work in which the use of quite rigorous contrapuntal techniques could be combined with the impetuosity, enthusiasm, and melodic expression which were so much a port of his personality.
The piece begins with a propulsive fugue followed by a flowing melodic section, which is also a double fugue, gradually leading to a relentlessly screaming passage for the two violins underneath which the original fugue subject returns. In the next section, the fugue subject is combined with its own inversion and with both fugue subjects from the melodic section to drive to a tremendous climax. After a recapitulation of the original fugue, the movement comes to a gruff close. The next movement is a quietly flowing chorale prelude. At the midpoint occurs a chorale-like progression for the whole quartet in whose interludes each instrument in turn has a beautiful improvisatory solo passage. The third movement is another one of Hindemith's military marches. In this one, the music starts out from the farthest distance and gradually comes nearer and nearer until it is deafeningly loud. It suddenly stops, leaving only the distant echo of what had occurred before. Was there possibly the suspicion of a quote from Wagner's Lohengrin there2 The cello begins the last movement alone with a seven bar bass line This turns out to be the subject of a 27 variation passacaglia The fugato coda brings bock the theme of the first movement and combines it with the passacoglia subject both of which surround obsessive repeated "C" octaves in the viola, the soft counterpart of the perpetual motion of op. 25 no. 1.
- Samuel Rhodes