Alexander Melnikov PAUL HINDEMITH Sonatas for...

If there is a Cinderella among Hindemith’s three dozen(ish) sonatas, it’s not that for double bass, tuba, or even the Canonic Sonatina for two flutes, but the Sonata for althorn (1943). A tenor instrument, known in the US as the alto horn, it is so rare that Hindemith accepted his sonata could be played on the horn or alto saxophone. It is a delightful work for a delightful instrument, beautifully rendered here. 
Melnikov’s role parallels that of Glenn Gould but his accounts are less wayward than the Canadian’s, his soloists generally stronger. Indeed, in most of the sonatas, the primary competition comes from one-off recordings (now that Ensemble Villa Musica’s almost-complete sonata set, with pianist Kalle Randalu, is unavailable). On BIS, Roland Pöntinen is accompanist for three rival accounts. In the 1935 Violin Sonata, Wallin may now have been overtaken by Zimmermann, Becker-Bender and now Isabelle Faust but choice will depend primarily on couplings since the margins between these contenders is so fine. 
So, too, with the others, though Wendy Warner remains peerless in the Cello Sonata despite a fine challenger here from Rudin. I would not want to be without Lindberg’s Trombone Sonata, though BIS’s sound is a tad over-resonant. Costes’s superb interpretation is the finest since Antonsen’s, accompanied by Sawallisch (EMI – sadly nla), and certainly a match for Laubin’s. I prefer Costes to Tine Thing Helseth’s driven account with Kathryn Stott, in a comparatively fierce recording. In short then, this is a magnificent disc, with leading or contending versions of all the works in terrific, beautifully balanced Harmonia Mundi sound. Let’s hope Melnikov & Co return to record some more. (Gramophone)

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