Paul Hindemith

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Paul Hindemith aged 28.
Paul Hindemith aged 28.

Paul Hindemith (16 November 189528 December 1963) was a German-American composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.


[edit] Biography

Born in Hanau, Germany, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child. He entered the Hochsche Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main where he studied conducting, composition and violin under Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles, supporting himself by playing in dance bands and musical-comedy outfits. He led the Frankfurt Opera orchestra from 1915 to 1923 and played in the Rebner string quartet in 1921 in which he played second violin, and later the viola. In 1929 he founded the Amar Quartet, playing viola, and extensively toured Europe.

In 1922, some of his pieces were heard in the International Society for Contemporary Music festival at Salzburg, which first brought him to the attention of an international audience. The following year, he began to work as an organizer of the Donaueschingen Festival, where he programmed works by several avant garde composers, including Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg. From 1927 he taught composition at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. In the 1930s he made a visit to Cairo and several visits to Ankara where (at the invitation of Atatürk) he led the task of reorganizing Turkish music education and the early efforts for the establishment of Turkish State Opera and Ballet. Towards the end of the 1930s, he made several tours of America as a viola and viola d'amore soloist.

Hindemith's relationship to the Nazis is a complicated one: some condemned his music as "degenerate" (largely on the basis of his early, sexually charged operas such as Sancta Susanna), and on December 6 1934, during a speech at the Berlin Sports Palace, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels publicly denounced Hindemith as an “atonal noisemaker.” Others, though, thought that he may provide Germany with an example of a modern German composer, who by this time was writing music based in tonality, and with frequent references to folk music; the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler's defence of Hindemith, published in 1934, takes precisely this line. The controversy around his work continued throughout the thirties, with the composer falling in and out of favour with the Nazi hierarchy; he did not finally emigrate (to Switzerland) until 1938 (despite his wife being Jewish), and in the meantime had sworn an oath to Hitler, had accepted a commission to write music for a Luftwaffe event (although it never materialised), conducted for official Nazi concerts, and accepted a position on the Reich Music Chamber. This part of Hindemith's life has until recently been glossed over by historians of the composer (such as Skelton or Kemp), who have mostly tried to assert his anti-Nazi beliefs, and have ignored some of the more uncomfortable facts (documented by Levi and Kater).

In 1935, Hindemith was commissioned by the Turkish government to reorganize that country's musical education, and, more specifically, was given the task of preparing material for the “Universal and Turkish Polyphonic Music Education Programme” for all music-related institutions in Turkey, a feat which he accomplished to universal acclaim. This development seems to have been supported by the Nazi regime: it may have got him conveniently out of the way, yet at the same time he propagated a German view of musical history and education. (Hindemith himself said he believed he was being an ambassador for German culture.) Hindemith did not stay in Turkey as long as many other émigrés. Nevertheless, he greatly influenced the developments of Turkish musical lif; the Ankara State Conservatory owes much to his efforts. In fact, Hindemith was regarded to be a “real master” by young Turkish musicians and he was appreciated and greatly respected.[1]

In 1940 Hindemith emigrated to the United States. At the same time that he was codifying his musical language, his teaching and compositions began to be affected by his theories, according to critics like Ernest Ansermet (1961, note to p. 42 added on an errata slip). Once in the States he taught primarily at Yale University where he had such notable pupils as Lukas Foss, Norman Dello Joio, Mel Powell, Harold Shapero, Hans Otte, Ruth Schonthal, and Oscar-winning film director George Roy Hill. During this time he also gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, from which the book A Composer's World was extracted (Hindemith 1952). He became an American citizen in 1946, but returned to Europe in 1953, living in Zürich and teaching at the university there. Towards the end of his life he began to conduct more, and made numerous recordings, mostly of his own music. He was awarded the Balzan Prize in 1962.

Hindemith died in Frankfurt am Main from acute pancreatitis.

[edit] Hindemith's music

Hindemith is among the most significant German composers of his time. His early works are in a late romantic idiom, and he later produced expressionist works, rather in the style of early Arnold Schoenberg, before developing a leaner, contrapuntally complex style in the 1920s. It has been described as neoclassical,[citation needed] but is very different from the works by Igor Stravinsky labeled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Bach than the Classical clarity of Mozart.

This new style can be heard in the series of works he wrote called Kammermusik (Chamber Music) from 1922 to 1927. Each of these pieces is written for a different small instrumental ensemble, many of them very unusual. Kammermusik No. 6, for example, is a concerto for the viola d'amore, an instrument which had not been in wide use since the baroque period, but which Hindemith himself played. He continued to write for unusual groups throughout his life, producing a sonata for double bass in 1949, for example.

Around the 1930s, Hindemith began to write less for chamber groups, and more for large orchestral forces. In 1933-35, Hindemith wrote his opera Mathis der Maler, based on the life of the painter Matthias Grünewald. It is respected in musical circles, but like most twentieth-century operas it is rarely staged, though a well-known production by the New York City Opera in 1995 was an exception.[1] It combines the neo-classicism of earlier works with folk song. Hindemith turned some of the music from this opera into a purely instrumental symphony (also called Mathis der Maler), which is one of his most frequently performed works.

Hindemith, like Kurt Weill and Ernst Krenek, wrote Gebrauchsmusik (Utility Music), music intended to have a social or political purpose and often intended to be played by amateurs. The concept was inspired by Bertolt Brecht. An example of this is his Trauermusik (Funeral Music), written in 1936. Hindemith was preparing a concert for the BBC when he heard news of the death of George V. He quickly wrote this piece for solo viola and string orchestra to mark the event, and the premiere was given on the same day. Hindemith later disowned the term Gebrauchsmusik, saying it was misleading.[citation needed]

In the late 1930s, Hindemith wrote a theoretical book The Craft of Musical Composition (Hindemith 1937–70), in which, amongst many other things, he ranks all musical intervals from the most consonant to the most dissonant. It laid out Hindemith's compositional technique he had been using throughout the 1930s and would continue to use for the rest of his life. This work added to his reputation as a composer of music that is theoretically interesting, but lacking in emotional interest.[citation needed] His piano work of the early 1940s, Ludus Tonalis is seen by many as a further example of this.[citation needed] It contains twelve fugues, in the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach, each connected by an interlude during which the music moves from the key of the last fugue to the key of the next one. Much of Hindemith's music begins in consonant territory, moves into dissonance, and returns at the end to full, consonant chords. This is especially apparent in his "Concert Music for Strings and Brass."

Hindemith's most popular work, both on record and in the concert hall, is probably the Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, written in 1943. It takes melodies from various works by Weber, mainly piano duets, but also one from the overture to his incidental music for Turandot (Op. 37/J. 75), and transforms and adapts them so that each movement of the piece is based on one theme.

In 1951, Hindemith completed his Symphony in B-flat. Scored for concert band, it was written for the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own". Hindemith premiered it with that band on April 5th of that year [2]. Its second performance took place under the baton of Hugh McMillan, conducting the Boulder Symphonic Band at the University of Colorado. The piece is representative of his late works, exhibiting strong contrapuntal lines throughout, and is a cornerstone of the band repertoire.

[edit] Works

See this page for a complete list.

[edit] Operas

[edit] Ballets

[edit] Orchestral

  • Concerto for Orchestra op.38 (1925)
  • Concert Music for String and Brass Instruments (The Boston Symphony) op.50 (1930)
  • Phylharmohic Concerto (Variations for Orchestra) (1932)
  • Mathis der Maler Symphony (1933-1934)
  • Symphony In E-flat major (1940)
  • Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Weber (1943)
  • Symphony "Serena" (1946)
  • Symphonietta (Little Symphony) in E-major (1949)
  • Die Harmonie der Welt Symphony (1951)
  • Symphony in B-flat major, for concert band (1951)
  • Pittsburg Symphony (1958)

[edit] Concertante

  • Piano Concerto (1945)
  • Violin Concerto
  • Trauermusik, for viola and strings
  • Der Schwanendreher, for viola and orchestra
  • Cello Concerto
  • Clarinet Concerto
  • Horn Concerto
  • Organ Concerto
  • Concerto for Trumpet and Bassoon

[edit] Vocal

  • When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (Requiem for those we love), for chorus and orchestra, based on the poem by Walt Whitman (1946)
  • Das Marienleben, song cycle for soprano and piano, based on poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, which exists in two versions. (There is also an orchestration by the composer of six of the songs from the cycle, for soprano and orchestra.)
  • Six Chansons, 6 pieces for a cappella choir, settings of French poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke (1939)

[edit] Chamber

  • String Quartet No. 1 in C, Op. 2
  • String Quartet No. 2 in F minor, Op. 10
  • String Quartet No. 3 in C, Op. 16
  • String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22
  • String Quartet No. 5, Op. 32
  • String Quartet No. 6 in E-flat
  • String Quartet No. 7 in E-flat
  • Brass Septet
  • Octet, for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, 2 violas, cello, and double bass

[edit] Instrumental

  • Acht Stücke für 2 Violinen, Viola, Violoncello und Kontrabass op. 44,3 (1927). (Eight pieces for two Violins, Viola, Cello und Bass)
  • Acht Stücke für Flöte allein (1927) (Eight pieces for flute alone)
  • Viola Sonata No. 1, Op. 11 no. 5 (1919) (viola solo)
  • Viola Sonata No. 2, Op. 25 no. 1 (1922) (viola solo)
  • Viola Sonata No. 3, Op. 31 no. 4 (1923) (viola solo)
  • Flute Sonata (1936)
  • Drei Leichte Stücke für Violoncello und Klavier (1938)
  • Oboe Sonata (1938)
  • Clarinet Sonata (1939)
  • Bassoon Sonata (1938)
  • Trumpet Sonata (1939)
  • Horn Sonata (1939)
  • Trombone Sonata (1941)
  • Double Bass Sonata (1949)
  • Tuba Sonata (1955)
  • Harp Sonata
  • English Horn Sonata

[edit] Piano

  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1936)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1936)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1936)
  • Ludus Tonalis

[edit] Organ

  • Organ Sonata No. 1 (1937)
  • Organ Sonata No. 2 (1937)
  • Organ Sonata No. 3 (on ancient folk songs)(1940)

[edit] Notable students

[edit] See also

[edit] Trivia

  • A melody that appears to be a variation of a quotation from the opening section of Paul Hindemith's Sonata for Flute and Piano ('Heiter Bewegt') appears in Kraftwerk's 1983 song Tour de France.
  • Hindemith was an enthusiastic collector of model trains.

[edit] Sources

  • Ansermet, Ernest. 1961. Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine. 2 v. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière.
  • Briner, Andres. 1971. Paul Hindemith. Zürich: Atlantis-Verlag; Mainz: Schott.
  • Hindemith, Paul. 1937–70. Unterweisung im Tonsatz. 3 vols. Mainz, B. Schott's Söhne. First two volumes in English, as The Craft of Musical Composition, translated by Arthur Mendel and Otto Ortmann. New York: Associated Music Publishers; London: Schott & Co., 1941-42.
  • ———.1952. A Composer's World, Horizons and Limitations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Kater, Michael H. 1997. "The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich". New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ———. 2000. "Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits". New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kemp, Ian. 1970. Hindemith. Oxford Studies of Composers 6. London, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Noss, Luther. 1989. Paul Hindemith in the United States. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Preussner, Eberhard. 1984. Paul Hindemith: ein Lebensbild. Innsbruck: Edition Helbling.
  • Skelton, Geoffrey. 1975. Paul Hindemith: The Man Behind the Music: A Biography. London: Gollancz.
  • Taylor-Jay, Claire. 2004. "The Artist-Operas of Pfitzner, Krenek and Hindemith: Politics and the Ideology of the Artist". Aldershot: Ashgate.

[edit] External links

  1. ^ Review of Mathis der Maler in the New York Times

NAME Hindemith, Paul
SHORT DESCRIPTION German composer, violist, teacher, music theorist and conductor
DATE OF BIRTH 16 November 1895
PLACE OF BIRTH Hanau, Germany
DATE OF DEATH 28 December 1963
PLACE OF DEATH Frankfurt am Main