Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was one of the most under appreciated composers of the 20th century. Talented and prolific, he was also a viola virtuoso of the highest order and premiered William Walton's Viola Concerto. More than any other composer, Hindemith understood the viola and wrote some of its most challenging repertoire. 'Der Schwanendreher' is a delightful viola concerto with themes based on old German folksongs.
On his death-bed Béla Bartók (1881-1945) left a draft of what appears to be almost all of the solo viola part of his concerto. The orchestration of the first version prepared for performance is largely Tibor Serly's although Bartók left fairly frequent short-hand prompts to what he had in mind. The revised edition, by Peter Bartók and Nelson Dellamaggiore, has restored many original features, but has not fundamentally challenged the orchestration.
Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding viola players of our time. After finishing her studies at the Toho School of Music, Yale University and the Juilliard School, she won the highest prizes at both the Munich and the Geneva international competitions. She combines a distinguished international solo career with teaching at the Conservatories in Amsterdam and Geneva, where she is a Professor.
"This disc is an almost unqualified success. It's wonderful to have Nobuko Imai, one of the world's greatest living violists, record for the first time two of the 20th century central works for her instrument, Bartók's Viola Concerto and Hindemith's Der Schwanendreher, his viola concerto based on old folk songs. With her flawless technique, impeccable intonation, and above all, her calmly confident, yet fully emotionally committed interpretations, Imai's performances are in the same class as the vast majority of her other recorded performances, that is to say, first class, and well worth hearing by anyone who treasures the repertoire. The accompaniments by Switzerland's Orchestre de la Haute École de Musique de Genčve, a student orchestra under the steady hand of Hungary's Gábor Takács-Nagy (the former leader of the great Takács Quartet) are exceptional, because they are so polished and enthusiastic... the superb performances of the two main works here will make this disc mandatory listening for viola fanciers. Pan Classics' digital sound is remarkably clear and clean, as well as amazingly vivid." Allmusic.com.
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