The Strad issue
A generally successful survey of Hindemith’s viola music
Yuri Gandelsman (viola) Ralph Votapek (piano)
The Uzbek violist Yuri Gandelsman studied with Genrikh Talalyan (and is therefore a grand-student of the great Vadim Borisovsky). After stints as principal of the Israel Philharmonic and with the Fine Arts Quartet, he now teaches at Michigan State University. Gandelsman has put together a mixed programme that takes in several aspects of Hindemith’s style. The opening Sonata op.11 no.4 reveals a close musical partnership with his faculty colleague Ralph Votapek, whose scintillating pianism is a constant joy. Both players are at their best in this lyrical early work, with Gandelsman humorously realising Hindemith’s indication ‘with bizarre awkwardness’ at one point.
The composer had a penchant for unusual markings, and the unaccompanied op.25 no.1 includes the most (in)famous of all: ‘Frantic tempo. Wild. Beauty of tone is irrelevant.’ Gandelsman manages to achieve the former without sacrificing the latter, but he is less than ‘very brisk and taut’ in the second movement, which is taken at rather a leisurely pace. Unfortunately, he joins the long list of perpetuators of a notorious misprint eleven bars before the end of the last movement.
After a monumentally compelling reading of the later, 1939 Sonata (Hindemith had by then abandoned opus numbers), this vividly recorded CD concludes brilliantly with Gandelsman’s transcription of a good-humouredly virtuosic Capriccio written by Hindemith for his cellist brother.