Three Pieces for Viola & Piano, Op.18
Wilhelm Hill (1838-1902) was born in the German city of Fulda. He studied piano and violin locally before moving to Frankfurt where he studied with Heinrich Henkel and Johann Christian Haupff. Except for a few short intervals, Hill remained in Frankfurt for the rest of his life where he gained a reputation both as a piano teacher and composer. He knew and was on friendly terms with many of the important composers of his day including Brahms, Anton Rubinstein and Louis Spohr. Spohr's high praise of Hill's first piano trio helped to make him better known in chamber music circles around Frankfurt. He wrote in most genres and, as far as chamber music goes, composed two piano trios, a string quartet, several instrumental sonatas and this piano quartet.
The Three Pieces for Viola and Piano---Notturno, Scherzo & Romanze--were composed in 1868 and published the following year. Each pieces compliments the other two providing a fine contrast and demonstrating Hill's masterful talent for part writing. The first piece, Notturno, begins in a calm and lyrical fashion. It seems a cross between a love song and a lullaby. However, the darker middle section brings a bit of turbulence and drama. The second piece, Scherzo, is a bright, upbeat hornpipe, full of good spirits. Its slower middle section is waltz like. The lovely finale piece, Romanze, has a sad quality, almost a lament, but full of fine sentiment.
These lovely works take ample advantage of the viola's timbre and the part-writing shows the instrument in its best light. Any of these works would make a fine recital choice.