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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hindemith Complete String Quartets, Amar Quartet

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) wrote some of the seminal chamber works of the first half of the 20th century. The Complete String Quartets (Naxos 8.503290) were as representative a slice of that as anything he did. The first five cover the major part of his European tenure, written between 1914 and 1923. Nos 6 and 7 were from his US period (1943, 1945).

All mark significant moments in his growth toward stylistic sublimity, toward an ideal of striking motival exceptionality and development, tightly conceived art expressions of his personal brand of avant neo-classical modernism.

The Amar Quartet gives us thoughtful and energetically dynamic readings of the seven quartets in a Naxos box set. There may be more brilliant interpretations of some of these works but taken as a whole the Amar versions are very faithful to the composer's vision and a real pleasure to experience.

There is a treasure trove of vintage Hindemith to be heard in this complete opus. Hindemith himself was a very accomplished violist. His presence in the acclaimed original Amar Quartet during his German period uniquely situated him to think in quartet terms. The quartet cycle that came out of this intimate working familiarity was surely one of the finest of the last century. Some 55 years after his death the quartets sound as fresh and vital as ever. The Amar version at the Naxos price makes it very attractive indeed, an essential element in your 20th century chamber collection.

Kudos and bravos!

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