About this Recording
8.223336 - HINDEMITH: Piano Works, Vol. 2
English  German 

Paul Hindemith (1895- 1963) Klaviermusik (Piano Music), Op

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Klaviermusik (Piano Music), Op. 37

Übung in drei Stücken (Exercise in Three Pieces), Op. 31/I

Reihe kleiner Stücke (Series of Little Pieces), Op. 37/II

Sonate Op. 17 (aus den Skizzen rekonstruiert von Bernhard Billetter)

(reconstructed frorn sketches by Bernhard Billeter)

Zwei kleine Klavierstücke (1934) (Two Little Piano Pieces)

 

Paul 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.

 

After 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.

 

As 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.

 

The 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.

 

On 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.

 

The 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 director please.

 

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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

(English version by Keith Anderson)

 

Hans Petermandl

 

The 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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