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8.223337 - HINDEMITH: Piano Works, Vol. 3
English  German 

Paul Hindemith (1895 -1963) Sonate No

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Sonate No. 1

Sonate No. 2

Sonate No. 3

Variationen (1963) (Ursprünglicher 2. Satz aus der 1. Sonate für Klavier)

(Originally the second movernent of Sonata No. 1 for piano)


Sonate No. 1


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.


Hindemith wrote his three piano sonatas in 1936. In the years preceding he had established his own mature style (the symphony on Mathis der Maler was written in 1934). Furthermore his position in the world was now clear, the position of the artist in relation to society and politics, through the impression made on him by current political events. This is documented in the libretto of the opera Mathis der Maler in 1934. Nevertheless Hindemith's personal circumstances were in these years more and more uncertain. He began the first Piano Sonata during his stay in Turkey in 1936, its inspiration a poem by Hölderlin. This poem, Der Main, tells first of the longing of the poet, the exiled singer, for Greece. It goes on:


Then wander he must

From strangers to strangers, and

The earth, free, must, alas,


Serve him as his fatherland, as long as he lives.

And when he dies - yet never shall I forget you,

However far I wander, fair River Main!, and

Your banks, so delightful.


In hospitality, proud one, you accepted me

And brightened a stranger's eye,

And quietly gliding songs

You taught me and how to live in silence.


Without being overt programme music the sonata expresses the feeling of its inspiration. The "Still hingleitende Gesänge" (quietly gliding songs) of the poem are songs of introversion and melancholy, a direct reaction to the depressing political circumstances of the time, reflected in the first and fourth movements. The second movement was originally a set of variations. The pianist Walter Gieseking , after a brief inspection of the sonata, with the second of the group, played it through to the publisher, who was delighted by both works, of which Gieseking intended to give the first performance in Germany, if political circumstances had not intervened. He was unable, however, to conceal his doubts about the meditative and complex variation movement. In its place Hindemith wrote a stirring slow march. The following movement is quick, a kind of scherzo, leading to a final fourth movement that recalls the first,

a framework in arch-form.


Sonata No. 2


On 8th July 1936 Hindemith wrote to his publisher as follows: "Oear Willy, Here you have the sonata you know about (i.e. the first) and so that you do not think that senility is approaching, I have also added a little brother to it ...it is a lighter counterpart to the weightier first..."


In three movements (sonata-form, scherzo and rondo), concise and cheerful in conception, it has the character of a sonatina. This is in contrast with the serious earlier sonata, but does not exclude, in the long slow introduction to the third movement, the underlying melancholy of that threatening period of history. The melody of this slow introduction returns in the second episode of the rondo in a more buoyant mood.


Sonata No. 3


The third of Hindemith's piano sonatas was written between 18th July and 20th August in the same year as the two earlier works. It is, after the sonatina form of the second sonata, a work of wider dimensions. The first movement, in sonata-form, is informed by a spirit of gentle lyricism, with great musical and technical contrast in the development. The scherzo-like second movement calls for pianistic brilliance and rhythmic precision, followed by a third movement in the style of a march. In this third movement appears a second theme that forms the subject of the double fugue of the finale, a movement that follows the grand tradition exemplified by the work in this form of Brahms and Reger.


Variationen (1936)


Instead of the variation-movement of the first Piano Sonata, Hindemith composed a slow march. This replacement became definitive, and the reinstatement of the original movement seems undesirable. This does not mean that the variation-movement was without value. Hindemith himself seems to have set considerable store by it and wanted to publish it as a separate piece, something that he never did. It seems a matter of chance, as so often in the history of music, as with Beethoven's Grosse Fuge as final movement of the String Quartet Op. 130 or Schumann's original finale for his G minor Sonata, that an original and important movement may be parted from the work of which it was once a part to enjoy a life of its own. We should not reproach Gieseking for his judgement based on a brief reading of the sonata. This is very introverted music, meditative in character, the beauty and inwardness of which makes a gradual but lasting impression on the sensitive listener. The theme of the variations is in a tranquil triple rhythm, marked very slow and expressive. Its structure (2+2 + 5 + 2+4 bars) underlies each variation, as do the motivic components, which appear in ornamented form and sometimes treated imitatively. The first and second variations bring an increase of movement. The third variation, marked very slow, employs rich, almost Baroque ornamentation in a meditative mood that informs also the final, fourth variation.


(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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