Chamber Music of Paul Hindemith
St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble
Octet for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Two Violas, Cello and Bass
1. Breit - Mäßig schnell
Varianten. Mäßig bewegt
Fuge und drei altmodische Tänze: (Walzer, Polka & Galopp)
Septet for Wind Instruments
Intermezzo, Sehr langsam, frei
Variationen, Mäßig schnell
Intermezzo, Sehr langsam
Fuge Alter Berner Marsch, Schnell
Sonata For Four Horns
Fugato: Sehr langsam
Variationen über "Ich schell mein Horn”
-Paul Hindemith was both poet and pedant-a difficult combination. As such, he has been hailed as the epitome of musical craftsmanship and dismissed as a learned automaton; seldom has he been understood.
Hindemith's character-meticulous, self-assured and determinedly anti-Romantic (once, when asked where he found his inspiration, he held up his pencil)-has too often been used as a club with which to beat his music. His sheer professionalism makes us suspicious (Hindemith is said to have been able to play every instrumental part in his compositions, whether viola, tuba, oboe or percussion). We much prefer the image of composer as wild-eyed mercurial genius, listening to the voice of nature on long woodland walks. Hindemith-stern, professorial, physically unprepossessing and more than a trifle stolid-just doesn't fit the mold.
Still, during Hindemith's lifetime, he was one of the most widely admired of contemporary composers. Several of his works-the "Mathis Der Maler" symphony, "The Four Temperaments" and, especially, the "Symphonic Metamorphosis on a Theme by Carl Maria Von Weber"have earned a small but secure place in the standard repertory. But the vast majority of Hindemith's music remains unplayed, unheard. Which is a shame, as listeners to this recording of three late chamber works will quickly discover.
The Septet, written for flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, horn and trumpet, was published in 1948. The Sonata for four horns was finished in 1952 and the Octet, scored for the unusual grouping of clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, two violas, cello and doublebass, proved to be Hindemith's last major piece of chamber music, written in 1957-58, some five years before the composer's death.
Throughout his career, Hindemith was regularly hailed as a "20th Century Bach." The reasons for theanalogy are obvious: polyphony was the essence of their art. Like Bach, Hindemith was most interested in counterpoint, from which he built grand, arching musical structures. Hindemith, no fool, encouraged the comparison by writing a massive keyboard work called "Ludus Tonalis" which bears both spiritual and technical similarities to "The Well Tempered Clavier" and the set of "Kammermusik" has been cited as Hindemith's answer to the "Brandenburg" concertos.
Yet, ultimately, Hindemith went his own way. "Our musician will decide not to enter serfdom in the form of obeying the performers' orders," he wrote in his book "A Composer's World." "Begging for their condescension will be below his dignity; no blaring publicity for publicity's sake will be his ambition. The opinion of shortsighted critics, be it bad or flattering, will not touch him; publishers will have no chance of pushing him around. He will refuse to build his fame on a ground of musical chauvinism and he will not belong to cliques, the only purpose of which is mutual eatherbedding of their members. The ceaseless hunt for sinecures masked as scholarships, ever-renewed instruction and plain payment for laziness will appear to him what it really is: an enervating excuse for a meager output."
"His choice is honest and hard work," Hindemith continued, "and with this he turns our negative picture into its positive form, in which the arrangement of light and shadow is correct and artistically most satisfactory. If we then ask what the auspices of his work are, the answer will be: he has entered the inner circle of veritable artistic creation and, if his talent permits, he may well be on his way to producing a musical masterpiece."
Paul Hindemith was born in Hanau, Germany on Nov. 16, 1895. As a boy he supported himself by playing the violin in cafes, cheaters and dance halls. After studies in Frankfurt, he helped organize the Donaueschingen Festival at Baden-Baden, an important forum for new music. By the late-20s, Hindemith was recognized as one of the leading composers in Germany. Upon the advent of Nazism, Hindemith left Germany and his music was banned from performance there. He initially went to Turkey, at the request of the government, to help reorganize musical education in that country. Then, in 1940, he came to the United States and joined the faculty of Yale University. There he continued co compose, while conducting the university's Schola Cantorum in important and scholarly performances of early music by Perotin, Monteverdi, Weelkes and Gabrieli, among others. He also wrote several influential textbooks; this writer vividly recalls struggling through "Elementary Training for Musicians" during his student years at the Mannes College of Music.
In 1953, Hindemith returned to Europe, where he settled in Zurich. During his last years, he paid several return visits to the United States, notably to attend a four-day Hindemith Festival presented in New York.He died on December 28, 1963, in Frankfurt, of acute pancreatitis. Professional reactions to Hindemith's music have always been mixed. Virgil Thomson's famous slam begs quotation: "[Hindemith's] music is not without a certain impressiveness for the music public in general. It is obviously both competent and serious. It is dogmatic and forceful and honest and completely without charm. It is as German as anything could be and farther removed from the Viennese spirit than any music could possibly be that wasn't the work of a German from the Lutheran North. It has no warmth, no psychological understan,ling, no gentleness, no Gemuclichkeic and no sex appeal. It hasn't even the smooth surface tension of systematic atonality. It is neither humane nor stylish, though it does have a kind of style, a style rather like that of some ponderously monumental and not wholly incommodious railway station."
Bue, for others, Hindemith remains • one of the century's distinct and origina I masters. Let us give the late Glenn Gould, a discriminating but committed Hindemith admirer who made several fascinating recordings of midst chapters with benumbingly anticipatable plot-lines, paragraphs, even pages, in which musical characterizations are drawn not only sympathetically and insightfully but with an ascetic commitment to detail that suggest the medieval mating of ritual and ecstasy." --Tim Page