The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: Rather over-earnest and dynamically flat performances of Hindemith’s cello music
Musicians: Judith Ermert (cello) Daan Vandewalle (piano)
Composer: Hindemith

Hindemith has often been admired as a supreme contrapuntalist and for his remarkable musical mind, but the Variations on ‘A Frog He Went A-Courting’ reveal him in a more whimsical vein. Yet such an impression doesn’t really come across here, for Judith Ermert’s performance lacks the necessary charm and humour. She is more impressive in the Solo Sonata op.25, where the opening motifs are commandingly etched. A suitably feathery spiccato characterises the Lebhafte Viertel, and the Mässig schnell’s double-stops and angular motives are boldly depicted.

The Three Pieces op.8 are cast in a more Romantic language, particularly the central ‘Phantasiestück’. Here again the playing, supported by a suitably ambient recording, is fervent and forthright, although more exaggeration of the dynamic contrasts would have helped to maximise the range of colours, particularly in the sometimes densely worked piano part. The concluding scherzo returns to more angular rhythmic writing, swirling into a quasi-Romantic waltz possibly poking fun at Straussian opulence, though such sentiment is seemingly absent in this earnest rendition.

In the Cello Sonata op.11 no.3, Ermert’s honeyed tone and alert articulation are persuasive, yet both she and pianist Daan Vandewalle frequently play too loudly for the contrasts in mood to manifest themselves fully. Although dynamic markings are insufficiently graded to affect the assumed tonal contours, particularly in the first movement, the concluding Sehr lebhaft is compellingly drawn.

Joanne Talbot