We don't hear enough of composer Paul Hindemith (1895- 1963). Two years ago, his 1940 Cello Concerto proved a revelation when the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra programmed it with soloist Johannes Moser; in 2012, Hindemith's earlier Kleine Kammermusik received a zesty workout from Wellington's Zephyr ensemble.
CDs provide some compensation. Search out John McCabe's recording of Ludus Tonalis, Hindemith's tribute to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier or Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski's 2009 account of Das Marienleben.
Hindemith went his own composerly way, disdaining Schoenberg's 12-tonal manipulations. He wrote zany operas early in his career, pedagogical textbooks later; he worshipped Bach but was also a great Disney fan.
Now, thanks to Harmonia Mundi, we have pianist Alexander Melnikov and five colleagues guiding us through five of Hindemith's more than 30 sonatas.
The diversity of tone colours is irresistible, from alto horn, through cello and violin, to trombone and trumpet.
The first movement of the Cello Sonata, with the exemplary Alexander Rudin, is a good starting point; be drawn into its cool, roving harmonies, which eventually flare into a web of beautifully articulated counterpoint.
Isabelle Faust, a guest soloist with the APO in July, tackles the lyrical Violin Sonata, the joyousness of the performance clearly the result of her close working friendship with Melnikov.
Hindemith is revered by the brass community, which cherishes the amount of music he wrote in this area. The Alto Horn Sonata, with an elegant Teunis van der Zwart, asks the players to recite poems about their instruments before the last movement.
One can hear the relish in Melnikov's opening line: "The old is good not just because it's past."
The Trombone Sonata is lightish - Hindemith himself sanctioned the title of Swashbuckler's Song for one of its movements, caught with piratical elan by Spanish trombonist Gerard Costes.
However, the 1939 Trumpet Sonata is serious bordering on stern. Melnikov and Jeroen Berwaerts invest it with the gravitas needed; you can sense the stormy clouds of World War II hovering, as the Bach chorale, "All Men Must Die", rises in the closing Trauermusik.
Verdict: Alexander Melnikov hosts the perfect introduction to a too-often overlooked master