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A theorist, teacher, violist, conductor, and composer who is regarded by many as the foremost German composer of his generation, Paul Hindemith was one of the most central figures in music between the First and Second World Wars. Born outside of Frankfurt, Hindemith moved with his family to the city in 1902. It was here, in 1904, that Hindemith began taking violin lessons. By 1908, Hindemith became a student of Adolf Rebner, a teacher at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, who arranged for Hindemith to be awarded a free place at the conservatory the following year. Although he had long been composing, Hindemith, in addition to continuing his study of the violin, began to study composition formally. However, he was forced to leave the conservatory in 1917 when he was called up for military service. He spent most of his service as a member of a regimental band stationed about 3 kilometers from the front line.

After returning from the war, Hindemith again took to the concert stage, having switched to viola in 1919. In 1923 he was invited to join the administrative committee of the Donaueschingen Festival, a group over which he exerted an ever increasing amount of control; programming works of such composers as Schoenberg and Webern. The next year he married Gertrud Rottenberg, the daughter of the conductor of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra, an ensemble in which Hindemith had been playing. In 1927 he received an appointment as professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. In addition to maintaining an active performing career, Hindemith soon developed a strong interest in teaching, and even took on an evening class at the Volksmusikschule NeuKolln.

Early in 1934, the Nazi party began a campaign to discredit Hindemith, which culminated in a boycott of the composer's works announced by the Kulturgemeinde in November of that year. In January 1935, Hindemith was given a six-month leave from the Hochschule. However, as the boycott of his music was not endorsed by the music division of the Nazi party until 1937, Hindemith was allowed not only to return to teaching, but also to undertake a series of concert tours abroad, to have his music published, and to enter into an agreement with the government of Turkey to build an organized musical life in that country. However, in 1937, Hindemith left Germany for Switzerland, and in 1940 came to the U.S.

After a series of lecture and teaching engagements which had been arranged by friends, Hindemith took a position at Yale, teaching composition and, from 1945 to 1953, conducting the Collegium Musicum. In 1946, Hindemith became an American citizen. In 1951 he accepted a position at the University of Zurich and, after retiring from Yale in 1953, took up permanent residence in Switzerland. After retiring from his post in Zurich, in 1955, he became more active as a conductor. In November 1963, he was taken ill and transferred to a hospital in Frankfurt, where he died of acute pancreatitis.

(Article taken from All Music Guide)

I'm a big fan of this composer. His work is described as "neo-classical," but I think that's a pretty stupid label to put on someone. They did the same thing to Stravinsky.

Anyway, he's a great composer. Very neglected and there's not many recordings of his available to the public. Right now, I only have two recordings a Yoel Levi/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and a 3-CD set of orchestral works with Herbert Blomstedt/San Francisco Symphony.

What do you guys think about him? Have any favorite compositions? Anything you would recommend to other people?
 

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This is an interesting article. I didn't know that he had served in WWI.

If I was forced to put a label on him, I would call him Expressionist...

Apart from his more well known works (eg. the infamous Mathis der Maler Symphony or the Symphonic Metamorphosis) I would recommend his concertos and chamber works.

I have heard his Violin Concerto, and it is an excellent work. Tension is never far below the surface, the violin sings and soars, all the way through to the chromatic and upbeat finale. I heard David Oistrakh's version, conducted by Hindemith himself in the early 60's. It's available here in Australia on Decca Eloquence.

I also like, for similar reasons, his String Quartet No. 5 or 6 (can't remember) which I have as part of a 2 cd set of various composers (all exiles in the USA) played by the New World Quartet. It is a deeply expressive work, which can seem rather cold and contrapuntal on the surface, but when you dig deep, it has much warmth. This is the contradiction that presents us with many of his work. Like, at the end of that work, there is a fugue or something, which seems rather technical, but then he interrupts it with a dance (a waltz, maybe) and it comes alive.

His life was not without controversy, it is well known how he was blacklisted and left Germany due to the rise of Nazism, but on Wikipedia it also says that he swoar an oath to Hitler, conducted for official Nazi concerts, and had accepted a commission from them to compose music for a Luftwaffe event (though the music never materialised)...

I suppose he bowed to official pressure to a degree, but after his life was made intolerable due to the Nazis, he left for the USA. Apparently, he was very bitter towards Germany right until the end of his life, could never forgive them.
 

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Hindemith lived a very interesting life to say the least. His music is very different, but I can tell a Hindemith composition in a minute. It has such a unique sound. He really developed his own musical language. He used a lot of what I guess could be called volume swells were the notes raise in volume at a certain speed depending on the tempo within the composition. These volume swells are almost always low bass notes underneath a contrapuntal or melody line. He was also a brilliant orchestrator and amazing with counterpoint. There's always a certain drama to his pieces too which give the music a lot of feeling.

I have ordered 5 more recordings of Hindemith with Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic. I look forward to hearing them! :)
 
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JTech, you once told me you disliked Hindemith.. :)
Well Bach, I went back and listened again and I now really like him. I'm sure this has happened to everyone at least once. We hear somebody and don't like them immediately, but then we go back and listen again and we appreciate them much more.

So yes, I did say I didn't like him before, but now I like him a lot. Do you like him Bach? What are your favorite compositions of his?
 

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I do indeed like him, especially for his various sonatas. One of the few composers to write a sonata for every mainstream western instrument..

I also enjoy his symphonic works - Mathis der Maler and the Metamorphosen on a theme by CMvWeber are of particular note, I feel.

But he is certainly a man with consummate compositional technique - a wonderful teacher he would have made!

I can tell you're way on your way to the second Viennese school. ;)
 

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Whatever label you put on his music generally (Expressionist, Modernist, Neo-classicist), I think the Mathis der Maler Symphony is one of the last great Romantic symphonies. Not only does the work go back to the time of the peasant's revolt in Germany in the C16th, and the paintings of Matthias Grunewald which are similarly full of emotion, it has a rich strand of deep humanism, which is also apparent in a long line of Germanic composers (Beethoven, Bruckner, Brahms, Mahler). & of course, that final grand chorale for brass, one of Hindemith's greatest creations, seems to hark back to none other than the great JS Bach. This is almost an archaic work, and were it not for the uncomfortable political subtext (human rights & revolution) the Nazis might have actually put up with it. But obviously, they didn't & banned it, despite the protestations of the music going public & conductor Furtwangler at the time.

There is also this sense of going back to the past to explore old ways expression in a new way in the Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes of CM von Weber. It is a superb work, mirroring not only Weber's classical Germanic tradition but the even older Chinese melodies embedded in the opera on whose themes it is based, Weber's Turandot.

Bach is correct in saying that he skillfully wrote many sonatas, and concertos, for a wide array of instruments, all of which he had a great knowledge of. I've heard only two of these works, the Violin Concerto (which I discussed above) and also have one of his Violin Sonatas on CD. In these works, there is again a sense of craftsmanship and knowledge of old forms, but he is approaching them in a new light. It is a pity that these works are not that well recorded or played today, somehow they've been eclipsed by works of his contemporaries like Bartok, Stravinsky, Prokofiev & Shostakovich. For example, one often hears the Viola Concertos of Bartok & Walton, & even once in a blue moon of Martinu, but it is not often that you hear Hindemith's superb Trauermusic (for viola & orchestra) which he wrote in only a space of days while he was in the UK, in memory of the king (forgot which one) who died at the time (in the '30s)...

But I think that he was, at heart, continuing the Germanic tradition which stretched right back to JS Bach right up to the time of the generations of Brahms & Mahler, and beyond into the mid C20th.

& I don't blame JTech for not liking him at first. As I said earlier, his works show a keen interest in technique, and this can often overwhelm the listener, much like a piece by JS Bach or Haydn. He often marks movements with technical descriptions, like the ostinato which is the last movement of his Pittsburgh Symphony. This could be a dry exercise in technique, but he always throws something in towards the end to make it exciting, like that gripping brass chorale at the end of Mathis der Maler or a banal upbeat tune that brings to mind the music of street bands at the end of Pittsburgh. So really, you have to not just hear but perceive - Hindemith challenges us to do this often. This is why I find his music so rewarding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I do indeed like him, especially for his various sonatas. One of the few composers to write a sonata for every mainstream western instrument..

I also enjoy his symphonic works - Mathis der Maler and the Metamorphosen on a theme by CMvWeber are of particular note, I feel.

But he is certainly a man with consummate compositional technique - a wonderful teacher he would have made!

I can tell you're way on your way to the second Viennese school. ;)
Funny should mention Mathis der Maler and Metamorphosis on a Theme By von Weber, because I was just listening to those last night. I also like his other symphonies, his concertos, and in particular Nobilissima Visione. Such a beautiful piece of music. He was such a gifted composer.

As far as me being on my way to the Second Viennese School, I'm not sure about that. I'm still traveling in the realms of tonality. Stravinsky and Hindemith are about as far out as I get.

But maybe one day I'll wake up, until then, I'm enjoying the sounds of Hindemith.
 
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Whatever label you put on his music generally (Expressionist, Modernist, Neo-classicist), I think the Mathis der Maler Symphony is one of the last great Romantic symphonies. Not only does the work go back to the time of the peasant's revolt in Germany in the C16th, and the paintings of Matthias Grunewald which are similarly full of emotion, it has a rich strand of deep humanism, which is also apparent in a long line of Germanic composers (Beethoven, Bruckner, Brahms, Mahler). & of course, that final grand chorale for brass, one of Hindemith's greatest creations, seems to hark back to none other than the great JS Bach. This is almost an archaic work, and were it not for the uncomfortable political subtext (human rights & revolution) the Nazis might have actually put up with it. But obviously, they didn't & banned it, despite the protestations of the music going public & conductor Furtwangler at the time.

There is also this sense of going back to the past to explore old ways expression in a new way in the Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes of CM von Weber. It is a superb work, mirroring not only Weber's classical Germanic tradition but the even older Chinese melodies embedded in the opera on whose themes it is based, Weber's Turandot.

Bach is correct in saying that he skillfully wrote many sonatas, and concertos, for a wide array of instruments, all of which he had a great knowledge of. I've heard only two of these works, the Violin Concerto (which I discussed above) and also have one of his Violin Sonatas on CD. In these works, there is again a sense of craftsmanship and knowledge of old forms, but he is approaching them in a new light. It is a pity that these works are not that well recorded or played today, somehow they've been eclipsed by works of his contemporaries like Bartok, Stravinsky, Prokofiev & Shostakovich. For example, one often hears the Viola Concertos of Bartok & Walton, & even once in a blue moon of Martinu, but it is not often that you hear Hindemith's superb Trauermusic (for viola & orchestra) which he wrote in only a space of days while he was in the UK, in memory of the king (forgot which one) who died at the time (in the '30s)...

But I think that he was, at heart, continuing the Germanic tradition which stretched right back to JS Bach right up to the time of the generations of Brahms & Mahler, and beyond into the mid C20th.

& I don't blame JTech for not liking him at first. As I said earlier, his works show a keen interest in technique, and this can often overwhelm the listener, much like a piece by JS Bach or Haydn. He often marks movements with technical descriptions, like the ostinato which is the last movement of his Pittsburgh Symphony. This could be a dry exercise in technique, but he always throws something in towards the end to make it exciting, like that gripping brass chorale at the end of Mathis der Maler or a banal upbeat tune that brings to mind the music of street bands at the end of Pittsburgh. So really, you have to not just hear but perceive - Hindemith challenges us to do this often. This is why I find his music so rewarding.
I agree with this assessment. It is an intelligent point Andre has made here, especially in this sentence:

You have to not just hear but perceive - Hindemith challenges us to do this often.
This is so true, especially with Stravinsky, Hindemith, or any "neo-classical" composer. There's so much beauty to be found in these works. I'm just busting with excitement, because Hindemith very well may become one of my favorites of all time.

Thanks to Andre, Bach, and all who participated in this thread. Let's keep it going. This composer's work needs to be exposed!
 

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As Bach said, he wrote for many instruments. This quest for comprehensiveness can be seen in his chamber music (kammermusik) output, particularly of the 1920's. He also attempted to write simple music, which could be played by amateurs, but was of a high quality. A good example of this are his mainy sets of small pieces, such as the Five Pieces for strings (which I have on CD on a compilation). They are very accessible and show his unique style.

By the way, his Funeral Music (Trauermusik) for viola & orchestra, which I mentioned above, was written in January 1936 in memory of King George V.
 

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By the way, his Funeral Music (Trauermusik) for viola & orchestra, which I mentioned above, was written in January 1936 in memory of King George V.
"Trauermusik" is such a beautiful piece of music. I only wish people would get into Hindemith more. I'm not sure what is holding people back.

In all your own opinions, why do you think Hindemith's music is not heard more?
 

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I don't think we hear too much Hindemith because his music generally does not have the emotional depth we've come to expect from 1st rate composers. Despite being very clever, interesting, noteworthy, daunting and towering structures there is little tear-jerking in Hindemith and that leaves audiences a bit cold.
While I like Hindemith's music and greatly respect it, for the reasons I give above I can't say that I 'love' his music.
 

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I don't think we hear too much Hindemith because his music generally does not have the emotional depth we've come to expect from 1st rate composers. Despite being very clever, interesting, noteworthy, daunting and towering structures there is little tear-jerking in Hindemith and that leaves audiences a bit cold.
While I like Hindemith's music and greatly respect it, for the reasons I give above I can't say that I 'love' his music.
That's a fair assessment, but you can apply the same kind of analysis to Stravinsky too. His music isn't all that heart-breaking either, but this, in my opinion, doesn't make their music any less compelling.

Hindemith was a composer of great depth. I'm not sure what you own, but I own all the major releases and some more not so well-known and I love every single one of them. Hindemith never composed a piece of music that I didn't feel a deep connection to of some kind. Though his music rewards listeners of all guises if you listen more closely. It's emotion is in it's brilliant counterpoint and the way these motifs weave in and out of each other. It's really quite mesmerizing and beautiful if you ask me, but there is a Romantic sweep to the music that adds to the drama.

I still think it's a shame his music isn't played more, but I can understand why it's not too, because his pieces need a dedicated conductor and an orchestra of the highest virtuosic ability to play them who are willing to take more risks with music.

I whole-heartedly recommend Yan Pascal Tortelier's and Herbert Blomstedt's Hindemith cycle to everybody.
 

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I don't think we hear too much Hindemith because his music generally does not have the emotional depth we've come to expect from 1st rate composers. Despite being very clever, interesting, noteworthy, daunting and towering structures there is little tear-jerking in Hindemith and that leaves audiences a bit cold.
While I like Hindemith's music and greatly respect it, for the reasons I give above I can't say that I 'love' his music.
Shallow, materialistic, philistine comment..
 

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Shallow, materialistic, philistine comment..
While I agree with you Bach, everybody is entitled to his/her own opinions, but I don't really care what Post-Minimalist wrote. I feel an emotional attachment to Hindemith's music and I know you do too, so that's really all that matters.

Every composer has his group of fans and detractors. Best thing that I've learned through the years is just to walk away.

You know people used to really tick me off when they said something about Thelonious Monk that was derogatory, but now I don't think too much about it. When you get older, you start caring less about what people think and more about what's important to you.

I'm sure there are composers that Post-Minimalist likes that I would never listen to in a million years, but again it's all a matter of what he likes. I can voice my opinion all day long about a composer he likes that I don't, but an opinion should never dictate whether you like someone or not. You have to find out for yourself.
 

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My favorite Hindemith compositions are:

Symphonic Dances
Symphony Mathis der Maler
Symphonic Metamorphosis (Variation on a Theme by Von Weber)
Symphony in E Flat
Nobilissima Visione
Theme and Four Variations "The Four Temperaments" (for piano and strings)
Pittsburgh Symphony
Symphonia Serena
Symphony "Die Harmonie der Welt"
Trauermusik
Concerto For Cello and Orchestra
 

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I don't think we hear too much Hindemith because his music generally does not have the emotional depth we've come to expect from 1st rate composers. Despite being very clever, interesting, noteworthy, daunting and towering structures there is little tear-jerking in Hindemith and that leaves audiences a bit cold.
While I like Hindemith's music and greatly respect it, for the reasons I give above I can't say that I 'love' his music.
Hindemith did have an excellent mastery of the technical aspects of composition, especially counterpoint. Sometimes the sheer craftsmanship of his music can overwhelm the listener. But I think that there is still much emotion in his music, like in the Trauermusik or the Mathis der maler symphony. It's just more subtle & less marked, more in the way he expresses ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Eg. the maginificent brass chorale at the end of the symphony, which seems to speak to the struggle for freedom against tyranny. He seemed to be reviving old forms and making them relevant to people in the modern era.

I have also read about a choral work which he composed after WWII, in memory of those who had died, called something like 'Requiem for those we loved.' Even though I haven't heard it, from what I read about it, it's quite an emotional work - for Hindemith, anyway. Pity that it doesn't seem to be so widely available, as with much of his music, apart from the more popular orchestral pieces.
 

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I have also read about a choral work which he composed after WWII, in memory of those who had died, called something like 'Requiem for those we loved.' Even though I haven't heard it, from what I read about it, it's quite an emotional work - for Hindemith, anyway. Pity that it doesn't seem to be so widely available, as with much of his music, apart from the more popular orchestral pieces.
Yes, it's called "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd: A Requiem for Those We Love" and it is quite beautiful. I only have one version of it by Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orch. This seems to be the only available release of it right now, but it is fine piece of music. I would like to hear Yan Pascal Tortelier tackle this piece. I'm sure he could do it justice. Tortelier, as some may or may not know, recorded an outstanding Hindemith cycle on Chandos. I own all of these recordings and they're very highly recommended as is Herbert Blomstedt's Hindemith on Decca.
 

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Shallow, materialistic, philistine comment..
Fair game. I actually would ammend my comment to say that only when Hindemith was writing for his beloved viola did he really mange to look deep enough into his soul to create meaningful music. The swashbuckler and the solo sonatas are up there with regers works for the instrument.
So, maybe not too philistine now.
I was, after all only trying to answer M.I.s question. Which begs another: why ask questions if you don't care about the answers? (dirrected at Bach more than M.I.)

Shame that you guys openly addmit to not caring what others think. After all that's why we post on a forum and not just send emails to ourselves.
FC
 

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Shame that you guys openly admit to not caring what others think. After all that's why we post on a forum and not just send emails to ourselves.
FC
It's not that I don't care what others think, it's just that I find it amusing that someone would say that a composer of Hindemith's stature is emotionally lacking and then kind of just dismiss him out-of-hand. How do you really know it is lacking emotion? Do you feel the same way about Stravinsky's music? If you're going to criticize Hindemith for lacking emotion you might as well say the same thing about Stravinsky. I mean both composers wrote the book on neo-classicism. They're both amazing and ushered in the 20th Century with some of the most profound works I've ever heard.

While you may not find any emotion in Hindemith's work, it's important to note that everybody feels something different from music. What you find emotionless, someone else may find full of emotion.

Bach, Andre, and myself are further proof that Hindemith's music continues to touches people in a deep and profound way and I'm glad I have people to share this joy with.
 
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