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ClassicsOnline Home » HINDEMITH: Piano Works, Vol. 1
(Dance Pieces), Op. 19
einer Nacht (One Night), Op. 15
Suite für Klavier ('1922' Piano Suite), Op. 26
Klavierstück (1929) (Little Piano Piece)
Hindemith was born at Hanau, near Frankfurt, in 1895, the son of a
house-painter. He had violin lessons as a child, from 1908 as a pupil of Adolf
Rebner, whose quartet he later joined as second violin, and after the war as a
viola-player. His other musical studies were at the Hoch Conservatory in
Frankfurt, followed in 1915 by appointment as leader of the Frankfurt Opera
Orchestra. He made a name for hirnself as a composer in the years immediately
after the war, particularly through the Donaueschingen Festival. He established
with the violinist Licco Amar the Amar-Hindemith Quartet, which won a
reputation for its performances of conternporary music, later forming a string
trio with colleagues at the Berlin Musikhochschule, where, in 1927, he was
appointed professor of composition.
1933 Hindemith found himself increasingly out of sympathy with the newly
established National Socialist régime in Germany and in 1934 his work was
banned, leading to a strong protest frorn Furtwängler, who had conducted the
symphony Mathis der Maler in the same year, and was now, for his temerity,
deprived of his position at the Berlin Opera. Hindemith moved in 1936 to
Turkey, where he was invited to establish a national system of musical
education, in accordance with the cultural policy initiated by Kemal Atatürk.
After a brief stay in Switzerland, he moved in 1937 to the United States, with
a teaching appointment at Yale, which he held until 1953. He spent his final
years in Switzerland.
a composer Hindemith was enormously prolific and versatile. His name is
associated particularly with Gebrauchsmusik, music of immediate practical use,
whether for professional or amateur performer. This was in contrast to the
notion of music as essentially the self-expression of a composer, a self-indulgence
he abjured. As a performer he was above all a string-player. He was an
excellent violinist, but also one of the most outstanding viola-players of his
time. He taught himself to play a number of other instruments, although denying
proficiency on the harp, including the piano, presumably a required element in
his studies. Biographies of Hindemith give no information about his
piano-teacher. Perhaps it was just for this reason that he used this instrument
on which he was unburdened by academic virtuoso training, to launch his
heaviest attack against convention and "solemnity" in art. In an
early biographical notice he admitted that he had cultivated new musical
territory - chamber music of all kinds, cinema, coffee-house, dance-music, operetta,
jazz, and military band. In his own music he seized on elements of almost all
these kinds of music and associated them with a new demonstration of vitality
that also included a secret delight in opposing antiquated traditions.
Op. 19 Tanzstücke come principally from two sources, from music actually used
for dances, the characteristics of which he freely borrowed and spiced with
frequent dissonance, and from his early interest in the expression of movement
and the translation of it from music to a general aesthetic experience, as he
later demonstrated in his ballets. This last aspect is particularly evident in
the fourth of the pieces of Opus 19, Pantomime.
provocative delight in dissonance and the borrowing of vulgar contemporary
dance-forms not yet sanctified by academic acceptance, such as the fox-trot,
appears also in the cycle "In einer Nacht", Opus 15, written in 1919.
Facetious references and quotations from opera reflect his employment as leader
of the Frankfurt Opera orchestra from 1915. In this way he makes ironical use
of a reference to the cuckoo-call in Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel, in Böser
Traum (Nightmare) he allows a melody from Rigoletto to make its melancholy
appearance in an inner part and a final double fugue gives an air of contrapuntal
parody. There is more here than an attempt to shock. There is too an element of
stillness and introversion. Many pieces in the cycle do not disclaim their
origin in impressionism and the first of the miniatures in particular show,
years before Bart¡¦ok's night-sounds and the eerie depiction of the pool in
Berg's Wozzeck, a new possibility in bringing into music experience of nature
(Müdigkeiten (Tiredness), Phantastisches Duett zweier Bäume vor dem Fenster
(Fantastic Duet of Two Trees at the Window), Rufe in der horchenden Nacht
(Calls in the Listening Night) ...).
instructions with which Hindemith prefaced Ragtime in his Suite '1922' are well
Mode d'emploi - Direction for use!!
Forget everything you have learned in
your piano lessons.
Don't worry whether you should play D
sharp with the fourth or the sixth finger.
Play this piece ferociously, but always
very strict in rhythm, like a machine.
Consider the piano here as an interesting
kind of percussion instrument and treat it accordingly.
composed this work by analogy with the Baroque suite, as, for example, of Bach,
replacing traditional Baroque dances such as the Allemande, Courante and
Sarabande with stylised forms of modern dances. There is deliberate provocation
in the use of frequent dissonance. A robust March opens with a shrill fanfare,
followed by a Shimmy. The fourth and fifth pieces are a waltz-like Boston and
the percussive Ragtime. At the heart of the Suite is a night-piece equivalent
of the baroque Sarabande in a gentle triple rhythm.
later years Hindemith reacted against his earlier work, including,
understandably, the Suite, referring to it once in conversation as "dieser
alte Wurm". Nevertheless it seems that one should defend this work, which
soon after its appearance caused a sensation and was often played, against the
subsequent harsh judgement of its composer. As time goes on, the mysteriousness
of the Nachtstück and the exciting swing of the outer movements must seem
increasingly impressive. Three other small pieces are in the nature of
by-products. In the sketch-book from 1919 to 1923 is a Lied of quietly
meditative character, in the tonality of G, written in 1921 in Barcelona.
short piano-piece (Kleines Klavierstück), also in G. was written in Prague in
1929 for Frau Josefine Grosz. The third piece has the ironic title of Berceuse.
Its accented repeated chords show it to be the exact opposite of a gentle
lullaby. It was intended as a light-hearted piece for the chamber music
festival at Donaueschingen in 1921, which brought Hindemith fame with the first
performance of his String Quartet, Opus 16. After the particular effort
involved, he played the fool among his friends. On the manuscript of the
Berceuse is written "Not more than one tablespoonful to be taken hourly. -
New, improved and absolutely acceptable product. (Not dangerous !!!!)"
version by Keith Anderson)
pianist Hans Petermandl was born in Linz in 1933 and studied under Bruno
Seidlhofer at the Vienna Musikhochschule, where he was awarded the Bösendorfer
Prize. His career has involved him in a par!icular concentration on the work of
Bach, with two performances of the complete 48 Preludes and Fugues for Austrian
Radio, and performances of Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Hindemith and
contemporary composers. He was soloist in Hindemith's Piano Concerto under the
composer's direction. He has won considerable success in Vienna and elsewhere
with his performances of the complete cycle of Schubert Piano Sonatas and
concert-tours have included not only Europe but also Japan and the United
States of America. He has appeared as a soloist under conductors of the
greatest distinction and in chamber music recitals.
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HINDEMITH: Piano Works, Vol. 1