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Pro Arte: Hindemith, Rhodes, Mozart

Hindemith: Sonata for Solo Viola
Samuel Rhodes: Viola Quintet
Mozart: Quintet in C Major, K. 515

Pro Arte Quartet
David Perry, violin
Suzanne Beia, violin
Sally Chisholm, viola
Samuel Rhodes, viola
Parry Karp, cello


The Julliard Quartet's violist, Samuel Rhodes, gave a vigorous account of Hindemith's problematic Sonata for Solo Viola, one of the very few solo works for the instrument, before being joined by the Pro Arte Quartet for a performance of his own Viola Quintet. The 22-minute work is cast in three extremely dense, highly original movements in which strong lyrical elements combine expressionist free atonality with elaborate contrapuntal exploration of motifs, embedded in a rhythmic texture of incredible complexity.

One hearing surely does not suffice for more than a superficial acquaintance with such a rich score, but at least a few things did come through clearly, especially in the middle movement (adagio), where unexpectedly all five instruments play in unison, a very dramatic effect after the particularly dense compression of the opening allegro moderato. The finale, marked allegro vivace, only slightly less complicated than the first movement, suddenly blossomed with a gorgeous solo passage for viola, very beautifully played by Sally Chisholm. My first impression of the work was highly favorable.

The program concluded with the utterly miraculous Quintet in C Major, K. 515 by Mozart. No ordinary piece, the archetype of the classical sonata form is stretched in ever more exciting ways as the allegro first movement's long exposition gives way to bold thematic and harmonic invention in the development section. The recapitulation goes far beyond restating the opening material, adding considerable elaboration, eliding effortlessly into a long, remarkable coda that leaves one in awe of true genius. The andante and menuetto allegretto that follow are no less impressive, and the concluding allegro is of a brillance that one would call astounding if it weren't Mozart. Let me just say that the composer's flash was well served by that of the players, for it was a fabulous performance, wildly applauded.

Isthmus, April, 2000
Copyright 2000 Jess Anderson

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