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Hindemith wrote five piano sonatas. The first is an experimental work from 1920 that survives in fragmentary form; although Bernhard Billetter recorded it two decades ago, it has not established itself in the repertoire. The last, from 1941, is incomplete, consisting of only a brief first movement, which Siegfried Mauser once recorded for Wergo (accessible on YouTube). The three remaining piano sonatas, the only ones the composer numbered, all date from 1936. At Gieseking’s request, Hindemith replaced No 1’s original slow movement, which now enjoys a separate existence under the title ‘Variations’ and closes the disc. Markus Becker proves a persuasive, if unsensational, advocate for these works, less mercurial than Gould in his classic CBS accounts (Volume 49 of Sony’s Gould Edition). If Becker catches No 1’s wistful atmosphere – inspired by Hölderlin’s poem Der Main – more keenly, he misses Gould’s relish of the sonatina-like Second Sonata, a lighter affair designed for gifted amateurs to play. Becker is brisker than Hans Petermandl (Marco Polo) or Kalle Randalu (MDG); overall, given his fine rendition of No 3 and Hyperion’s superior sound, this is marginally the market leader. As with Petermandl and Randalu, Becker includes the discarded Variations from Sonata No 1, but he is significantly slower than his rivals (two minutes slower than Petermandl in a work the latter dispatches in under seven minutes!). He appears to interpret the work as an independent item, not just a discarded movement.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing