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ClassicsOnline Home » HINDEMITH: Piano Works, Vol. 2
(Piano Music), Op. 37
in drei Stücken (Exercise in Three Pieces), Op. 31/I
kleiner Stücke (Series of Little Pieces), Op. 37/II
Op. 17 (aus den Skizzen rekonstruiert von Bernhard Billetter)
frorn sketches by Bernhard Billeter)
kleine Klavierstücke (1934) (Two Little Piano Pieces)
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. In Hindemith's Sonata for solo viola, Op. 25 No. 1, there is the
direction "rasendes Zeitmass, wild, Tonschönheit ist Nebensache"
(frantic tempo, furious, beauty of tone of secondary importance). Similar words
appear before many of the fast movernents in Hindemith's early works. It is not
a question of elegance and polish but of intensity, roughness and
aggressiveness in stormy music that stems frorn an overwhelming vitality. The
first, third and the close of the second of the Exercise in Three Pieces,
written in 1924/25, are expressions of such a feeling of storm and stress.
Exercise here naturally has nothing to do with finger exercises but corresponds
to the Ausübung (Practice) of Baroque terminology.
first piece is a rondo, in apparently evenly running semiquavers that include
various different rhythms. In two alternating sections the at first irritated
listener hears recurring accented notes or chords, which sound like scratches
on a record. The second piece, marked Langsame Viertel (Slow crotchet),
consists of a broad, mostly two-part texture, twice repeated with increasing
dynamics and enveloped in colourfully changing timbres, with both hands in
counter-rnovement playing demi-semiquavers. This litany-like statement leads to
a rapid stretto, an ostinato, in which a motif of a descending fourth, B flat,
A flat, G flat, F, is repeated 45 times, with ever-increasing intensity.
Hindemith wrote a similar Ostinato on a descending figure of four notes at the
end of Act II of his opera Cardillac. It forms there the music for the dramatic
moment at which the demonic goldsmith Cardillac, in black cloak, dagger in
hand, plunges into the darkness to win back through robbery and murder the gold
ornaments just sold. The stretto provides a clear parallel to this scene, with
the descending figure suggesting a similarly obsessive idea. The third piece, a
rondo, is similar in mood to the first, with increased rhythmic complexity.
Hindemith claimed to have spent some time on the piece, at a period in his life
when he was preoccupied with the possibilities of mechanical instruments. For
the demonstration of such an instrument he had this Rondo transferred to a roll
for mechanical piano.
the Exercise in Three Pieces Hindemith wrote to his publisher that after
looking at it carefully again he had the feeling that it was proper music and
above all "ein stubenreiner Klaviersatz" (clean piano-writing). In
fact the music is linear, generally two-part in texture in the fast sections,
with divided chords as accompaniment in the second piece, which is almost in
the spirit of Ravel.
Reihe kleiner Stücke (Series of Little Pieces), Op. 37 No. 2, was written in
1926 and is the most important of Hindemith's early compositions for the piano.
The expressive range of these technically demanding pieces is wide, ranging
from the dissonant pathos of the opening, with its dotted rhythm reminiscent of
a Baroque French Overture, to the gently poetic Lied (No. 2), a kind of
Invention, worked out in canon (No. 3), a tender fourth piece, a fifth rubato.
The sixth and seventh are dominated by a tempestuous mood, followed by a
rapidly fleeting eighth. The next three pieces are Trios, in three-part
texture, of which the first, No. 9, is gently lyrical, the second of greater
intensity and the third a fugato, with twelve entries of the theme, from the
fortissimo of the opening to the pianissimo of the ending. Two pieces follow
which were the first to be composed, originally bearing the titles Ernstes
Stück (Serious Piece) and Lustiges Stück (Happy Piece). The former, reminiscent
of the Pietà music from Hindemith's Marienleben, uses dissonance to express a
mood of deep intensity. According to the composer it should be played
"like Schumann". The second of the pair provides a counterpart. The
fourteenth and final piece extends the mood of happiness to one of playfulness
in what is really café music of the kind that the composer used in the tenth
scene of his opera Neues vom Tage (News of the Day). There he gives the
direction that the music should be used for dances and variety turns as the
original manuscript of the Sonata, Op. 17, is for the most part lost. Until its
eventual recovery we must be grateful to the Swiss pianist, music-historian and
editor of Hindemith Bernhard Billeter, who has reconstructed the work from
Hindemith's sketches. It must remain undecided to what extent this edition
corresponds to the original or is a development of it. According to the
composer Harald Genzmer, Hindemith in his Berlin period, from 1927, set some
store by this work, written in 1920. He seems later, however, to have changed
his mind as he neither allowed it to be published nor included it in the list
of his numbered piano sonatas.
Sonata should even so have its place in a complete edition of the work of
Hindemith, particularly in view of the special characteristics of the second
movement. The first movement, in sonata-form, is rather elegiac in mood, with a
subsidiary theme an expressive hymn. The movement ends in a pianissimo. The
second movement, in variation form, changes from a rough briskness that
sometimes borders on noisy vulgarity (Theme and Variations 2 and 4) to gentle
lyricism (Variations 1 and 3), related to the mysterious impressionism of a
piece from In einer Nacht. The variations lead in conclusion to an obsessive
ostinato, with a central scherzando, a light and hesitant caricature. It is
only this movement that survives in its original form through its appearance in
the publication Melos.
Two Little Piano Pieces of 1934, in C and in G sharp, are found in a
sketch-book of 1934. They have no tempo or dynamic markings.
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. 2