Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
There are only two things worth aiming for, good music and a clean conscience.
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One of the most important composers of the first half of the 1900s, Hindemith was also one of the most distinguished viola-players of his time. He devoted the earlier part of his career to performance and he traveled widely with the Amar-Hindemith Quartet as a viola soloist and as a conductor of his own works. His name is particularly associated with the concept of Gebrauchsmusik (workaday music) and the composer as a craftsman. He was a prolific composer and wrote music in a variety of forms. Attacked by the National Socialists, who viewed him as a musical degenerate, he resigned from the Berlin Musikhochschule, where he had served as professor of composition for some eight years. He moved to New York where he was appointed visiting professor at Yale University in 1940. After the war he returned to Europe and spent the rest of his life touring extensively, conducting for various orchestras, teaching at the Universities of Yale and Zurich and composing his later introspective compositions. In 1933 Hindemith began work on his opera Mathis der Maler and found himself in open conflict with the National Socialist government of Germany and, despite the protestation of the conductor Furtwangler, the opera was banned. Hindemith derived a symphony of the same title from the opera.
The dance legend Nobilissima visione, based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and first performed in London in 1938. This is better known in occasional instrumental excerpts, although there is a concert suite from the work. In addition to the Mathis der Maler Symphony, the Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber is in general repertoire. Hindemith wrote concertos for various solo instruments. Of these the concertos for the viola are notable, in particular the attractive Der Schwanendreher (The Swan-Drover), based on folk-songs, and Kammermusik No. 5, also a viola concerto. Among the various duo sonatas written by Hindemith, there are sonatas for violin and piano and for viola and piano that are of interest. The sonata repertoire provided for tuba, double bass, horn, harp, trumpet, viola d'amore, cor anglais and other instruments is of interest, as are the three organ sonatas. Apart from his three Piano Sonatas and sonatas for two pianos and for piano duet, Ludus Tonalis is the most ambitious work for piano, a set of fugues and interludes through the keys, in the manner of J.S. Bach, preceded by an introduction that is inverted in conclusion. [Adapted from Karadar]