The following review is taken from the Spring 2022 issue of Clarinet & Saxophone magazine. For more reviews, news, and features from the single-reed world, join to receive our quarterly magazine and other membership benefits.
HINDEMITH: CLARINET CONCERTO, CLARINET QUARTET, SONATA
Sharon Kam (clarinet)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Cohen (conductor), Antje Weithaas (violin), Julian Steckel (cello), Enrico Pace (piano)
The Israeli-German clarinettist Sharon Kam has released a lovingly compiled and perhaps unexpected new recording of works for clarinet by Hindemith. I say unexpected because Kam is recognised for her expressive, vocal clarinet style, whereas Hindemith has a reputation for being dry and inaccessible, at least in some quarters. This disc should persuade anyone that Hindemith is well worth listening to, and that his works for clarinet are quite fascinating.
First on the programme is the 1947 Clarinet Concerto, dedicated to Benny Goodman and written when Hindemith was exiled in the US. Despite Goodman’s involvement, no jazz language is discernible; rather, the comparison that struck me was with Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto, although the solo part is less firework-filled and more consistently lyrical. The orchestra and conductor certainly bring this neglected work to life in all its rich detail, and Kam’s account is memorably assured. I was left wondering why this intriguing piece is so rarely heard.
Next is the foreboding Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano. This was composed in 1938, predating Messiaen’s similarly scored Quartet for the End of Time by three years. 1938 saw Hindemith flee the Nazis to Switzerland, which could explain the marked absence of joy in this melancholic, calculated work. Every note is exquisitely rendered in this performance, and the piece will be an interesting discovery for fans of Messiaen’s better-known counterpart.
The Sonata for clarinet and piano dates from 1939 and is the opposite of the Quartet: it is full of bounce, dash and leaping phrases. The most bviously frivolous work on the disc, the Sonata is a miniature feast of enjoyable writing, even if the last movement is a little trite at times. Kam avoids any interpretive pitfalls by approaching the work respectfully and sincerely, maximising the lyricism and allowing the witticisms to shine without exaggeration.
Kam’s playing is ambitious in terms of communication and phrasing on this recording; no note is performed without intention. Her free, flexible tone is refreshingly personal, and her technique, articulation and intonation are more than a match for the works presented here. A highly recommended and enjoyable listen, not just for those with an academic interest in Hindemith.