Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beethoven and Hindemith by the Amar Quartet

The Amar Quartet:
(L to R) Licco Amar, Walter Caspar, Paul Hindemith, Rudolf Hindemith
What do you do if you're a young composer hoping to make a splash with a new string quartet you've submitted to a music festival, only to find that the group assigned to perform it refuses to do so? Why, start your own quartet, of course. The composer was Paul Hindemith, the quartet his Op. 16, the festival the one for new music at Donaueschingen, in its inaugural year of 1921, and the recalcitrant musicians the Havemann Quartet. So the viola-playing Hindemith and his cello-playing brother Rudolf set about finding two violinists to give the performance with, and the Amar Quartet (often known informally as the Amar-Hindemith Quartet) was born. The group had such a success with Hindemith's quartet that they decided to become a permanent ensemble, and began giving regular concerts in 1922. And Hindemith wrote another new quartet specifically for the group, which turned out to be his finest work in the genre:

Hindemith: String Quartet, Op. 22
The Amar Quartet (Amar-Caspar-P. Hindemith-R. Hindemith)
Recorded c. 1926
Polydor 66422 through 66424, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.58 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.03 MB)

This is actually the second recording of the work they made; the first was acoustical, and is so rare that I don't expect to actually hear it in this lifetime. Their electrical recordings are rare enough, though more numerous, and include two Mozart quartets, the Verdi E minor, the first recording anywhere of music by Bartók (the Second Quartet - available from Satyr), and this one by Beethoven:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95
The Amar Quartet (Amar-Caspar-P. Hindemith-R. Hindemith)
Recorded c. 1927
Polydor 66571 through 66573, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.97 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.49 MB)

This occupies five sides of the three records; the set is completed by three more sides devoted to part of another Hindemith opus, to produce an oddly mismatched four-record set:

Hindemith: String Trio No. 1, Op. 34 - First and second movements
The Amar Trio (Caspar-P. Hindemith-R. Hindemith)
Recorded c. 1927
Polydor 66573 and 66574, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 31.61 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 19.73 MB)

It isn't known whether more of the work (there are two additional movements) was recorded, but my hunch is that it was, and not passed for issue due to technical deficiencies, as pitch instability is evident on the last side actually issued.

Enjoy - and before anyone asks, these are all the Amar-Hindemith 78s I possess, for which I consider myself very fortunate indeed!


  1. What nice pieces!
    Thank you very much!

  2. ******************thnx!!!!!

  3. Bryan, Thanks for sharing. Interesting combination of labels on the Beethoven-
    cun-Hindemith. I've only ever seen the technicolour on acoustics. given the'
    ante-diluvian sound DG produced with the Brunswick light ray system [and
    with a horn rather than a microphone at that!] the GSE might be forgiven'for
    thinking the rec's acoustic. WERM perpetuated errors from GSE in more
    than one case, as they probably just copied, rather than check the records,
    which they might not have been able to do anyway. Given the volume of
    material, it's a wonder there weren't more errors than there are!

    Mike in Plovdiv

    1. Mike, yes, I was mystified about the mixture of pressings myself; as well as the different styles for printing the info on the labels (Spanish or not, for instance, in the op22). WERM at least corrected GSE on thinking the Trio was an acoustic; I guess they had sense enough to realize 66573 was rather a late catalog number to be acoustic, but they perpetuated the mistake about the second-vs-third movement identification, which perhaps even GSE wasn't able to verify. The labels, as you will note, do not specify which movement is which, no doubt because the piece wasn't issued complete.

  4. Dear Bryan, Yes, thank you so much! I don't think the Trio has been transferred commercially has it? Oh, hang on - I have the first movement on a DG CD, 459 003-2 (p.1998). Anyway, this is the first time I've listened to it - what gutsy playing! And what an excellent transfer you've produced - much better than DG's, I can tell you. Thank you for all your selfless work, including your notes - better dating than Luttmann. You're right, that error about the selections has got just everywhere.

    As for the acoustical Hindemith Op.22 set, there's a copy in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris - but not in the British Library, the Deutsches Musikarchiv or the LoC. I once saw the Stravinsky/Krenek disc at Gramex in London, where it was selling for £120 - I was flabbergasted but this was many years ago, before I realised how rare it is. It has been transferred to CD, along with the Beethoven 'Eyeglass' duet - both, truly atrociously - by the German label Dreyer Gaido - an utter travesty. So someone has a copy. The Hindemith duet was coupled with the Beethoven, yes. I have the Bartók Quartet No.2, which is on Arbiter.

    Once again, thank you very much!


    1. Hi Nick, I knew you'd like it! You're half (or two-thirds) right about the Trio; the second movement has never been transferred as far as I am aware. I have that DG disc too, and was never much impressed with it. The Arbiter, which I also have, is very good; in fact I hesitated to compete with it on the Beethoven op95 but decided since I managed to acquire the Trio in tandem with it I may as well go whole hog and transfer everything! The electrical Hindemith op22 surfaced on a Koch CD some 20 years ago, now long OOP, and anyhow that transfer wasn't all it could be, especially given that it was credited to none other than Mark Obert-Thorn, who usually does much better work. The Dreyer Gaido, I assume, is the collection called "The Rudolf Hindemith Edition"? I wasn't able to find acceptable track listings for those anywhere online.

      Thanks for the confirmation about 66193, and about library holdings! I recall seeing the Stravinsky/Krenek on one of Glaspole's lists, also some 20 years ago, and at a similar price, well beyond my means! Perhaps the Dreyer Gaido folks got it from him...

    2. Hi Bryan, I sure did enjoy it! And your transfers are better across the board - no contest. The Dreyer Gaido disc is available online via Naxos Music Library (I have free access through a local library) or its commercial arm, Classics Online, as well as other 'etailers' (but don't *think* of buying it!):

      The Concertino *will* show up. I just missed another rarity on Raymond's latest list - it wasn't at all expensive but although I e-mailed him within minutes it had already gone!

      All the best and thanks again,


  5. Great! One of my oldest post is The Amar SQ with Bartok SQ no.2 (1927).
    P.s. the link to my blog 78 toeren klassiek has changed:
    Best wishes, Rolf/Satyr

    1. Thanks for the info, Satyr! In the past I've linked to your blog in a number of my own posts (including one for the Amar Bartok) so I'll soon be updating those posts with your new links - if I can find them, that is!

  6. Bryan, (sorry about misspelling your name on my YouTube comments), you and Rolf and all the others who do transfers from their own 78s and LPs, especially those who share them freely, are my (and many others’) heroes.

    I somehow overlooked this post. I was familiar with their Bartok which is amazing. They play the Beethoven as well as any quartet plays late Beethoven. The recordings of the Hindemith quartet and trio are otherworldly. I can understand the commenter on your YT upload of the trio movements saying he believed the recording was sped up for the first movement. Most people don’t understand that many string players from that period could play that fast and accurately. Their playing of the quartet and trio is stunning and mesmerizing. What an incredible shame about the unrecorded movements.

    It’s a crime that more people have not listened to your uploads of these pieces on YouTube. I will upload them hoping that more ears will hear them.

    1. Hi Doug, I had to laugh when I saw that YT comment, because the poster didn't know the half of it! Actually I had to slow the playing speed of the trio recording down so that it matched the pitch of the two quartet recordings, around A=448 or so. Perhaps "Taneyev" objected to it not being 440? As I'm sure you know, that wasn't the standard until relatively recently. Anyway thanks for "rebroadcating" it; perhaps it will reach a wider audience that way.

  7. Bryan,
    I only discovered your blog a few months ago, and have since explored a number of your postings. To me the most valuable have been the various listings for the Paul Hindemith quartets. I have gotten to know these very undervalued works through the fine recent recordings by the Amar Quartet on Naxos. This recording, along with those of the Budapest, Guilet, and Coolidge Quartets that you have posted, have made me appeciate these works even more. Why the Hindemith quartets are not held in higher regard is a mystery to me. While they may not have extended the string quartet syntax as did the Bartok, the Hindemith quartets are emotionally rich works that deserved to be considered among the finest sets of the 2oth century, along with the Bartok, Shostakovitch and Britten. Thank you for posts. Your work is very much appreciated.