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Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith

born on 16/11/1895 in Hanau, Hessen, Germany

died on 28/12/1963 in Frankfurt am Main, Hessen, Germany

Paul Hindemith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Paul Hindemith (/ˈhɪndəmɪt/; 16 November 1895 – 28 December 1963) was a prolific German composer, violist, violinist, teacher and conductor. Notable compositions include his song cycle Das Marienleben (1923), Der Schwanendreher for viola and orchestra (1935), and opera Mathis der Maler (1938). Hindemith's most popular work, both on record and in the concert hall, is likely the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, written in 1943.

Life and career

Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child. He entered Frankfurt's Hoch’sche Konservatorium, where he studied violin with Adolf Rebner, as well as conducting and composition with Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles. At first he supported himself by playing in dance bands and musical-comedy groups. He became deputy leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra in 1914, and was promoted to leader in 1917. He played second violin in the Rebner String Quartet from 1914.

Hindemith was conscripted into the German army in September 1917 and sent to join his regiment in Alsace in January 1918.[1] There he was assigned to play bass drum in the regiment band, and also formed a string quartet. In May 1918 he was deployed to the front in Flanders, where he served as a sentry; his diary shows him "surviving grenade attacks only by good luck", according to New Grove Dictionary.[1] After the armistice he returned to Frankfurt and the Rebner Quartet.[1]

In 1921 he founded the Amar Quartet,[2] playing viola, and extensively toured Europe.

In 1922, some of his pieces were played 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. In 1927 he was appointed Professor at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik in Berlin.[3] Hindemith wrote the music for Hans Richter's 1928 avant-garde film Ghosts Before Breakfast (Vormittagsspuk), although the score was subsequently lost, and he also acted in the film.[4] In 1929 he played the solo part in the premiere of William Walton's Viola Concerto, after Lionel Tertis, for whom it was written, turned it down.

During the 1930s he made a visit to Cairo and several visits to Ankara where (at the invitation of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) he led the task of reorganizing Turkish music education and the early efforts for the establishment of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet. Hindemith did not stay in Turkey as long as many other émigrés. Nevertheless, he greatly influenced the developments of Turkish musical life; the Ankara State Conservatory owes much to his efforts. In fact, Hindemith was regarded as a "real master" by young Turkish musicians and he was appreciated and greatly respected.[5]

Towards the end of the 1930s, he made several tours in 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 based on his early, sexually charged operas such as Sancta Susanna), and in December 1934, during a speech at the Berlin Sports Palace, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels publicly denounced Hindemith as an "atonal noisemaker".[6]

Other officials working in Nazi Germany, though, thought that he might provide Germany with an example of a modern German composer, as by this time he was writing music based in tonality, with frequent references to folk music; the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler's defense of Hindemith, published in 1934, takes precisely this line.[7]

The controversy around his work continued throughout the thirties, with the composer falling in and out of favor with the Nazi hierarchy; he finally emigrated to Switzerland in 1938 (in part because his wife was of partially Jewish ancestry).[8] From there he migrated to Turkey where he was the leading figure of a new music pedagogy in the era of president Kemal Atatürk. His deputy was Eduard Zuckmayer.[9]

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.)

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.[10] Once in the U.S. he taught primarily at Yale University, where he had such notable students as Lukas Foss, Graham George, Norman Dello Joio, Mitch Leigh, Mel Powell, Yehudi Wyner, Harold Shapero, Hans Otte, Ruth Schönthal, Samuel Adler, Leonard Sarason, and Oscar-winning film director George Roy Hill. He also taught at the University at Buffalo, Cornell University, and Wells College.[11] 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). Hindemith had a long friendship with Erich Katz, whose own compositions were influenced by him.[12] Also included among Hindemith's students were the composers Franz Reizenstein[13] and Robert Strassburg[14] [15]

He became a U.S. 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.

An anonymous critic writing in Opera magazine in 1954, having attended a performance of Hindemith's Neues vom Tage, noted that "Mr Hindemith is no virtuoso conductor, but he does possess an extraordinary knack of making performers understand how his own music is supposed to go".[16] He was awarded the Balzan Prize in 1962.

After a prolonged decline in his physical health, although he composed almost to his death, Hindemith died in Frankfurt from pancreatitis aged 68.



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. This style has been described as neoclassical,[17] but is very different from the works by Igor Stravinsky labeled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Reger than the Classical clarity of Mozart.

The new style can be heard in the series of works 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 that has not been in wide use since the baroque period, but which Hindemith himself played. He continued to write for unusual groups of instruments throughout his life, producing a trio for viola, heckelphone and piano (1928), 7 trios for 3 trautoniums (1930), a sonata for double bass and a concerto for trumpet, bassoon, and strings (both 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. This opera is rarely staged, though a well-known production by the New York City Opera in 1995 was an exception (Holland 1995). It combines the neo-classicism of earlier works with folk song. As a preliminary stage to the composing of this opera, Hindemith wrote a purely instrumental symphony also called Mathis der Maler, which is one of his most frequently performed works. In the opera, some portions of the symphony appear as instrumental interludes, others were elaborated in vocal scenes.

Hindemith wrote Gebrauchsmusik (Music for Use)—compositions intended to have a social or political purpose and sometimes written to be played by amateurs. The concept was inspired by Bertolt Brecht. An example of this is his Trauermusik (Funeral Music), written in January 1936. Hindemith was preparing the London premiere of Der Schwanendreher when he heard news of the death of George V. He quickly wrote this piece for solo viola and string orchestra in tribute to the late king, and the premiere was given that same evening, the day after the king's death.[18] Other examples of Hindemith’s Gebrauchsmusik include:

  • the Plöner Musiktage (1932): a series of pieces designed for a day of community music making open to all inhabitants of the city of Plön, culminating in an evening concert by grammar school students and teachers.
  • a Scherzo for viola and cello (1934), written in several hours during a series of recording sessions as a "filler" for an unexpected blank side of a 78 rpm album, and recorded immediately upon its completion.
  • Wir bauen eine Stadt ("We’re Building a City"), an opera for eight-year-olds (1930).

Hindemith's most popular work, both on record and in the concert hall, is probably the Symphonic Metamorphosis 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 5 of that year.[19] 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. Hindemith recorded it in stereo with members of the Philharmonia Orchestra for EMI in 1956.

Musical system

Most of Hindemith's music employs a unique system that is tonal but non-diatonic. Like most tonal music, it is centred on a tonic and modulates from one tonal centre to another, but it uses all 12 notes freely rather than relying on a scale picked as a subset of these notes. Hindemith even rewrote some of his music after developing this system. One of the key features of his system is that he ranks all musical intervals of the 12-tone equally tempered scale from the most consonant to the most dissonant. He classifies chords in six categories, on the basis of how dissonant they are, whether or not they contain a tritone, and whether or not they clearly suggest a root or tonal centre. Hindemith's philosophy also encompassed melody—he strove for melodies that do not clearly outline major or minor triads.

In the late 1930s, Hindemith wrote a theoretical book The Craft of Musical Composition (vol. 1, Hindemith 1937), which lays out this system in great detail. He also advocated this system as a means of understanding and analyzing the harmonic structure of other music, claiming that it has a broader reach than the traditional Roman numeral approach to chords (an approach that is strongly tied to the diatonic scales). In the final chapter of Book I, Hindemith seeks to illustrate the wide-ranging relevance and applicability of his system in analysis of music examples ranging from the early origins of European music to the contemporary. These analyses include an early Gregorian melody, and compositions by Guillaume de Machaut, J. S. Bach, Richard Wagner, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and finally, a composition of his own.

His piano work of the early 1940s Ludus Tonalis contains twelve fugues, in the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach, using all traditional devices like inversion, dimunition, augmentation, retrogradation, stretto, etc., each fugue connected by an interlude to the next, during which the music moves from the key of the last to its successor. The order of the keys follows Hindemith's ranking of musical intervals around the tonal center of C.

One traditional aspect of classical music that Hindemith retains is the idea of dissonance resolving to consonance. Much of Hindemith's music begins in consonant territory, progresses rather smoothly into dissonance, and resolves at the end in full, consonant chords. This is especially apparent in his Concert Music for Strings and Brass.


Pedagogical writings

His complete set of instructional books (in possible educational order)

  1. Elementary Training for Musicians (ISBN 0901938165) 1946
  2. A Concentrated Course in Traditional Harmony: Book 1, Part 1—With Emphasis on Exercises and a Minimum of Rules, revised edition (ISBN 0901938424) New York: Schott Music, 1968
  3. A Concentrated Course in Traditional Harmony: Book 2—Exercises for Advanced Students, translated by Arthur Mendel. (ISBN 0901938432) New York: Schott, 1964
  4. The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 1—Theoretical Part, translated by Arthur Mendel (London: Schott & Co; New York: Associated Music Publishers. ISBN 0901938300), 1942 [1]
  5. The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 2—Exercises in Two-Part Writing, translated by Otto Ortmann. (London: Schott & Co; New York: Associated Music Publishers. ISBN 0901938416) 1941
  6. Unterweisung im Tonsatz 3: Ubungsbuch für den dreistimmigen Satz [The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 3—Exercises in Three-part Writing]. Mainz: Schott 5205, ISBN 3-7957-1605-5, 251 pages. 1970. Only available in the original German.

Notable students


Hindemith conducted some of his own music in a series of recordings for EMI with the Philharmonia Orchestra and for Deutsche Grammophon with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which have been digitally remastered and released on CD.[20][21] The Violin Concerto was also recorded by Hindemith for Decca/London, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra with David Oistrakh as soloist. Everest Records issued a recording of Hindemith's postwar When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd ("A Requiem for Those We Love") on LP, conducted by Hindemith. A stereo recording of Hindemith conducting the requiem with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with Louise Parker and George London as soloists, was made for Columbia Records in 1963 and later issued on CD. He also appeared on television as a guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's nationally syndicated "Music from Chicago" series; the performances have been released by VAI on home video. A complete orchestral music collection has been recorded by German and Australian orchestras, all released on the CPO label, recordings all conducted by Werner Andreas Albert.


Hindemithon Festival

An annual festival of Hindemith's music is held at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. It features student, staff, and professional musicians performing a range of Hindemith's works.

See also

  • Music written in all major and/or minor keys



  1. ^ a b c Giselher Schubert, "Paul Hindemith," Entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, accessed online in Grove Music Online, November 2015
  2. ^ The Amar Quartet was founded for the Donaueschingen Festival of 1921 and was disbanded in 1929. See an account by Tully Potter, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2009-03-30. , and entry under Chamber-Music Players in Eaglefield-Hull 1924, 86.
  3. ^ A Dictionary of Twentieth Century World Biography. United Kingdom: Book Club Associates, 1992, p. 267.
  4. ^ Wilke, Tobias (2010). Medien der Unmittelbarkeit (in German). Munich: Wilhelm Fink. p. 63. ISBN 978-3-7705-4923-8. 
  5. ^ Arnold Reisman, ed. (2006). Turkey's Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision. New Academia Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 0977790886. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  6. ^ Arnold Reisman, ed. (2006). Turkey's Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision. New Academia Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 0977790886. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  7. ^ Furtwängler 1934.
  8. ^ Steinberg, Michael (1998). The Concerto : A Listener's Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 205. ISBN 01980-2634X. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  9. ^ Arnold Reisman, ed. (2006). Turkey's Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision. New Academia Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 0977790886. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  10. ^ 1961, note to p. 42 added on an errata slip
  11. ^ "Courses as an Instructor: Paul Hindemith". 
  12. ^ Davenport 1970, 43.
  13. ^ Maurice Hinson, Music for More than One Piano: An Annotated Guide (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 2001): 244. ISBN 978-0-253-11306-1.
  14. ^ Composer genealogies: A Compendium of Composers, Their teachers and Their Students Pfitzinger, Scott. Roman & Littlefield, New York & London 2017 Pg. 522. ISBN 9781442-272248
  15. ^
  16. ^ Opera (June 1954): 348.
  17. ^ Taylor 1997, p. 261.
  18. ^ Steinberg, Michael (1998). The Concerto : A Listener's Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 212. ISBN 01980-2634X. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  19. ^ "Biography". Hindemith Foundation. Archived from the original on 2001-04-13. 
  20. ^ "Review | HINDEMITH CONDUCTS HINDEMITH. ® ORCHESTRAL WORKS. °Dennis Drain (hn); Philharmonia Orchestra I Paul Hindemith. EMI Treasury® EG291 173-1; LEI EG291 173-4. Nobilissima visione—suite (from Columbia 33CX1533, 5/58). Horn Concerto (33CX1279, 12/59)8. Konzertmusik for strings and brass, Op. 50 (33CX1 512, 3/58). Symphony in B flat major for concert band (33CX1 512, 3/58)". Gramophone. 1987-04-20: 40. 
  21. ^ "Hindemith Conducts Hindemith: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon: Paul Hindemith, Spoken Word, Paul Hindemith, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [members], Monique Haas, Hans Otte: Music". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 


  • 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.
  • Bruhn, Siglind (1998). The Temptation of Paul Hindemith. Mathis der Maler as a Spiritual Testimony. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-013-8.
  • Bruhn, Siglind. 2000. Musical Ekphrasis in Rilke's Marienleben. Internationale Forschungen zur allgemeinen und vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft 47. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-0800-8.
  • Bruhn, Siglind. 2005. The Musical Order of the World: Kepler, Hesse, Hindemith. Interplay, no. 4. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-117-3.
  • Davenport, LaNoue. 1970. ""Erich Katz: A Profile"". The American Recorder (Spring): 43–44. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  • Furtwängler, Wilhelm. 1934. "Der Fall Hindemith". Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung 73, no. 551 (Sunday, 25 November): 1. Reprinted in Berta Geissmar, Musik im Schatten der Politik. Zürich: Atlantis, 1945. Reprinted in Wilhelm Furtwängler, Ton und Wort: Aufsätze und Vorträge 1918 bis 1954, 91–96. Wiesbaden: F.A. Brockhaus, 1954; reissued Zürich: Atlantis Musikbuch-Verlag, 1994. ISBN 9783254001993. English version as "The Hindemith Case", in Wilhelm Furtwängler, Furtwängler on Music, edited and translated by Ronald Taylor, 117–20. Aldershot, Hants.: Scolar Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-85967-816-2.
  • Eaglefield-Hull, Arthur. (Ed.). 1924. A Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians. London: Dent.
  • 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.
  • Hindemith, Paul. 1952. A Composer's World, Horizons and Limitations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Holland, Bernard. 1995. "Music Review; City Opera Gamely Flirts with Danger". New York Times, 9 September.
  • Kater, Michael H. 1997. The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kater, Michael H. 2000. Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kemp, Ian. 1970. Hindemith. Oxford Studies of Composers 6. London, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Neumeyer, David. 1986. The Music of Paul Hindemith. New Haven: Yale 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, Ronald. 1997. Berlin and Its Culture: A Historical Portrait. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300072007.
  • Taylor-Jay, Claire. 2004. The Artist-Operas of Pfitzner, Krenek and Hindemith: Politics and the Ideology of the Artist. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Further reading

  • Luttmann, Stephen. 2013. Paul Hindemith: A Research and Information Guide. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-84841-5.

External links

This page was last modified 17.07.2018 06:13:24

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