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List: 20th Century String Quartets
Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Nationality: German
Born: November 16, 1895, Hanau Died: December 28, 1963, Frankfurt (age 68)

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
5:36 I. Fugato. Sehr langsame Viertel
5:01 II. Schnelle Achtel. Sehr energisch. Presto
7:17 III. Ruhige Viertel. Stets fließend
1:52 IV. Mäßig schnelle Viertel
4:47 V. Rondo. Gemächlich und mit Grazie
Duration: 25 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1921 (age 25-26)
Premiere: November 4, 1922. Donaueschingen, Amar-Quartett, Hindemith on viola.
Published: 1923, Mainz: B. Schott's Söhne (age 27-28)
Note: Was String Quartet No. 3 until an earlier quartet was discovered and the numbering changed.
5 recordings, 22 videos
autoopen autoplay
6:01
Borodin Quartet
I. Fugato. Sehr langsame Viertel
4:29
Borodin Quartet
II. Schnelle Achtel. Sehr energisch. Presto
7:48
Borodin Quartet
III. Ruhige Viertel. Stets fließend
1:42
Borodin Quartet
IV. Mäßig schnelle Viertel
5:01
Borodin Quartet
V. Rondo. Gemächlich und mit Grazie
5:27
Brandis Quartet
I. Fugato. Sehr langsame Viertel
5:39
Brandis Quartet
II. Schnelle Achtel. Sehr energisch. Presto
7:43
Brandis Quartet
III. Ruhige Viertel. Stets fließend
1:48
Brandis Quartet
IV. Mäßig schnelle Viertel
5:29
Brandis Quartet
V. Rondo. Gemächlich und mit Grazie
5:02
Fine Arts Quartet
I. Fugato. Sehr langsame Viertel
5:00
Fine Arts Quartet
II. Schnelle Achtel. Sehr energisch. Presto
7:11
Fine Arts Quartet
III. Ruhige Viertel. Stets fließend
1:45
Fine Arts Quartet
IV. Mäßig schnelle Viertel
4:31
Fine Arts Quartet
V. Rondo. Gemächlich und mit Grazie
11:00
Danish Quartet
(part 1 of 2)
14:14
Danish Quartet
(part 2 of 2)
6:25
Amar Quartet
I. Fugato. Sehr langsame Viertel
5:09
Amar Quartet
II. Schnelle Achtel. Sehr energisch. Presto
7:16
Amar Quartet
III. Ruhige Viertel. Stets fließend
2:09
Amar Quartet
IV. Mäßig schnelle Viertel
4:44
Amar Quartet
V. Rondo. Gemächlich und mit Grazie
From Kai Christiansen

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22, 1921

Paul HindemithThe chamber music of Paul Hindemith is rare on the concert stage these days. This is somewhat ironic, perhaps doubly so. For most of his life in the first half of the 20th century, Hindemith was considered one of Germany's greatest composers. In addition, one of his chief aesthetic concerns was Gebrauchsmusik, music for use in everyday life with a practical purpose. In opposition to the increasingly arcane and alienating music from a musical ivory tower pursing "art for art's sake," Hindemith hoped to engage the common man, fulfilling his need to make and enjoy music as a natural capacity. Nonetheless, after his death, Hindemith and his prolific output have seemed to largely elude both the avant-garde and the man on the street.

Hindemith was an immensely gifted and multifaceted musician. Showing early promise and becoming a working professional by his early teens, he eventually learned to play just about every instrument in the orchestra, performed as a soloist (viola and violin), toured with a string quartet for several years (the original Amar Quartet which he founded), conducted, taught, became a pioneer in early music performance, wrote numerous books and still managed to compose prolifically and skillfully in every standard musical genre.

Given his prowess as a string player and a working stint in a travelling quartet, it is no wonder that the string quartet figures prominently in his catalog of nearly 60 chamber music works. Hindemith composed 7 numbered string quartets. His 3rd string quartet, Op. 16, established his international reputation while the 4th, Op. 22, written one year later, is regarded as his first string quartet to display his mature, advanced style. Op. 22 was the most frequently played Hindemith quartet by the original Amar Quartet and has generally been the one most firmly established in the repertoire. As a curious note, Op. 22 was once regarded as Hindemith's String Quartet No. 3 until an earlier quartet was unearthed bumping the sequence number of all subsequent quartets up by one.

Op. 22 comprises five movements though the first two movements are played without a pause (attacca), as are the fourth and fifth movements forming a composite intro-finale. Characteristic for much of Hindemith's music, it largely evades a standard tonality by avoiding strong harmonic cadences with a linear style that is primarily polyphonic, or, when stacked vertically, in unisons or wide intervals without strong harmonic suggestion. The quartet opens with a "fugato", essentially a fugue in three-part design where the middle rises to a dynamic climax before reprising the exposition with fresh scoring. The second movement is a forceful if not brutal presto that seems part Bartók, part Psycho. The central movement is a calm, lyrical slow movement featuring the violin as soloist with delicate accompaniment by the remaining ensemble. The 4th movement is a brief, emphatic cello recitative reinforced by collective outbursts leading right into the finale, a perky rondo with a main refrain one commentator aptly calls a Bach two-part invention, had Bach lived in 1921.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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