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Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
String Trio No. 1 Op. 34 (1924) [19:15]
String Trio No. 2 (1933) [21:40]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
String Trio Op. 45 (1946) [18:01]
Trio Zimmermann (Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Christian Poltéra (cello))
rec. 2016, SRF Studio, Zürich (Hindemith No. 1, Schoenberg), Reitstadel, Neumarkt in der Oberpfaltz (Hindemith No. 2)
Reviewed in CD stereo
BIS SACD BIS-2207 [60:00]

The members of the Trio Zimmermann all have solo careers but for the last ten years they have come together each season for a short tour round Europe. From these have come recordings. They have already recorded Mozart’s great Divertimento for string trio K. 563, a work which belies its title, and also the Beethoven trios. Now they come forward with a most enterprising coupling of Hindemith and Schoenberg.

Hindemith’s first string trio is one of those exuberant early Hindemith works in which the young composer revels in his inventive powers and enthusiasm. There are four movements. The opening Toccata is full of rhythmic verve, memorable themes and imitative writing. |It is followed by a slow movement in neo-baroque idiom, grave and beautiful, and then by a pizzicato scherzo, showing that Hindemith knew Ravel’s quartet, which famously had one first. The finale has most attractive ideas and is full of variety. It comes as something of a surprise to learn that it is in fact a double fugue.

The second trio was written nine years later and to replace its predecessor in the repertoire of the trio Hindemith was playing in at the time, with the violinist Szymon Goldberg and the cellist Emanuel Feuermann. (By this time Hindemith had abandoned Opus numbers.) It is a more integrated work than the first and closer to the serenity which we know from Mathis der Maler and Nobilissime Visione of a few years later. The first of the three movements is based on a leaping figure which is thrown around and elaborated. The second is a scherzo of quite different character from that in the first trio, and the finale moves through different moods before a very fast coda. Both trios are most attractive works, very accessible and not less interesting than the quartets.

Schoenberg’s string trio is one of his last works. The story of its composition is well known: shortly after he had started work on it he suffered a heart attack and only an injection of adrenalin into his heart saved him. He told Thomas Mann, among others, that he had represented his illness in the work, though it would be a waste of time to try to trace it in any detail. Rather, it is a kind of summation of his career, with reminiscences of his early tonal period, his expressionist period and I even detected a quotation from his Variations for Orchestra from his serial period. Although the opening is very disruptive, don’t let that put you off. Much of it, though written in the serial technique, is tonal and very attractive, and in places reminiscent of Beethoven’s late quartets. It is a very varied and fascinating work, and it grows on you. I should say that I consider it the finest work in the medium since the Mozart trio I mentioned earlier.

The Trio Zimmermann deserve every praise, not only for choosing this programme, but for performing it with such commitment and love. As well as the superb technical command, which you would expect, they have entered into the spirit of all the pieces here so that what might seem a somewhat daunting programme is consistently enjoyable and interesting. Incidentally they all play instruments by Stradivarius, who might have been quite surprised at what his instruments are expected to do in the twentieth century.

The recordings, in two different venues are well matched and sound well in what seems an appropriate recital-size hall. I was listening in normal stereo and cannot comment on the SACD sound. The booklet is helpful.

There are a few other recordings of the Hindemith trios, but without a coupling. There are rather more of the Schoenberg, of which I am familiar with that by members of the LaSalle quartet, coupled with Verklärte Nacht and a pendant to their well-known versionso fhte Second Vienmnese School quartets, and that by the Arnold Schoenberg Trio, formed to perform this work and which they couple with the Mozart Divertimento. Both are admirable. The Trio Zimmermann is the only work with this programme. It is not only enterprising but also enjoyable and it deserves every success.

Stephen Barber



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