Born: November 16th, 1895
Died: December 28th, 1963
Country of origin: Germany
Conductor: Henry C. Smith
May 3rd, 2015 | St. Paul, MN - United States of America
May 6th, 2015 | Aula der Universität - Freiburg i.Br. - Germany
In general, the lack of contact in music between the producer and the consumer in our time is regrettable; a composer should only write when he knows for what purpose he is composing. The days of simply composing for oneself have perhaps now been lost for ever. (Paul Hindemith)
Paul Hindemith was born on 16.11.1895 in Hanau. He studied the violin and composition with Adolf Rebner, Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt/Main. He was only twenty when he was appointed as the leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra. After the end of the First World War, he returned to Frankfurt and founded the Amar Quartet in which he played the viola from 1922 to 1929. In 1923, Hindemith became a member of the organisational committee for the Donaueschingen Music Festival: it was at this festival that he gained an initial reputation following the first performance of his String Quartet Op. 16. In 1927, he was appointed as professor for composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. His career as a composer reached a first peak at the beginning of the 1930s, but with the seizure of power by the National Socialists, his works were declared as “culturally bolshevist” and disappeared from concert programmes. Hindemith undertook a number of journeys to Turkey and the USA. In 1936, a final ban was issued for the performance of his works which provoked Hindemith to emigrate, initially to Switzerland. He subsequently relocated to the USA and acquired American nationality (1946). As a professor, he taught at Yale University from 1940 to 1953 and was a guest lecturer for poetry at the Harvard University in 1949/50. From 1951 to 1957, he was a professor for musicology at the Zurich University and settled in Blonay near Lake Geneva. Paul Hindemith died on 28 December 1963 in Frankfurt/Main.
Hindemith played a prominent role in music history, not only as one of the leading composers of the 20th century, but also as conductor, teacher and musical theorist. His oeuvre spans all genres: orchestral works, solo concertos, chamber music for a wide variety of instruments, choral works, lieder, operas and ballets. He was also the author of numerous books and essays, including the book on harmonic theory "Unterweisung im Tonsatz”, first published in 1937. His compositions take up a position within the contradictory contexts of avant-garde provocation, "Neue Sachlichkeit” [New Objectivity] and the search for a universally accepted musical language. While Kammermusik No.1 which was premiered in1922 in Donaueschingen was deliberately intended to provoke the bourgeois public with its wailing sirens, the later Kammermusik works which were composed up to 1927 display the transparent, contrapuntal and well-dosed harmony which chiefly characterised Hindemith’s works during his central creative phase. The Concerto for violin and orchestra from 1939 heralded a series of later solo concertos which display Hindemith’s fully matured style.
Hindemith produced a decisively contrasting alternative to Wagner’s musical dramas with his comic opera Neues vom Tage (1828-29), composed in the style of the “topical opera” of the 1920s. Hindemith’s operas frequently contain stylistic elements of parody which can also be detected in his ironical chamber music works such as Minimax (1923) or the Ouvertüre zum „Fliegenden Holländer“ („wie sie eine Kurkapelle morgens um 7 am Brunnen vom Blatt spielt“) [Overture to the “Flying Dutchman” (“as played at sight by the spa orchestra at seven o’clock in the morning at the fountain”)]. Hindemith made a substantial contribution to the genre of music theatre with his operas Cardillac (1925-26/1952), Mathis der Maler (1934-35) and Die Harmonie der Welt (1956-57).
Hindemith received honorary doctorates from numerous universities including the University of Frankfurt (1949), the FU Berlin (1950) and Oxford University (1954). He also received the Bach Prize from the city of Hamburg (1951), the Order pour le mérite (1952), the Sibelius Prize (1955), the Kunstpreis from the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia (1958) and the Bazlan Prize (1963). Since 2000, the city of Hanau has commemorated “the lifework of this illustrious artist” with the biennial awarding of the Paul Hindemith Prize of the city of Hanau.