This is one of a number of new releases commemorating the 50th anniversary of Paul Hindemith’s death. His three Piano Sonatas were all written in the same year, 1936, after he’d fled the Nazis. (Hindemith wasn’t Jewish – the Nazis just hated his music.) The sonatas, while clearly from the same pen, have distinct profiles: the dramatic First has an improvisatory feel, the Second is lighter and the Third the most formally disciplined, with a Bach influence in its fugal finale.

The booklet note states: “Hindemith… viewed the piano as providing a… neutral tone colouring through which the movement and intertwining of tones, themes and lines could be contemplated”. That may not be the whole story, but it seems to be how Markus Becker views this music. While far from being neutral in expression, his approach is thoughtful and balanced.

Becker has a great many pluses: He brings coherence to the First Sonata, and the Third’s Sehr lebhaft movement positively flows (fluency in Hindemith – as opposed to, say, Chopin – does not come automatically. It requires hard work.) But for all his finesse there is one crucial aspect missing here: an underlying wildness that places Hindemith fairly and squarely in the 20th Century and links him to composers like Bartók. Hans Petermandl, in a 1990 Marco Polo recording, finds that quality and matches Becker in expressive detail while displaying greater immediacy.

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