Chapter 73Paul Hindemith and Music in Nazi Germany
Germany Prior to WW II• When the Nazi’s took over the German government in 1933, they banished Jews from employment and banished music by Jewish composers .• Atonal and 12-tone music was also ruled out . [American jazz was also dismissed as “decadent.”]• Nazi leaders instead supported the music of Strauss – though they were confused over trends in the music of their day.• Their attitude towards the music of Paul Hindemith was especially ambivalent – despite Hindemith’s efforts to accommodate their wishes.
The Life of Paul Hindemith (1895–1963)• 1895 - born in Frankfurt, learns violin and viola as a child• 1909-17 - student at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt• 1919-23 - concertmaster of the Frankfurt opera orchestra• 1923 - appointed to the board of the Donaueschingen Festival of new music• 1927-37 - on the faculty of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin• 1937 - leaves Germany for Switzerland, later (1940) for the United States• 1941 - appointed to the faculty of the School of Music at Yale University• 1951 - settles in Switzerland; begins career as orchestral conductor• 1965 - dies in Frankfurt
Hindemith’s Music• In addition to musical composition, Hindemith was a music theorist who: – attempted to establish laws based on principles in the use of chromatic tones (12-tone music).• In 1937 he published The Craft of Musical Composition where he presents a theory concerning the 12 tones of the chromatic scale stating: – tones and intervals form a hierarchy of different strengths – these differences are derived from acoustical laws and cannot be denied or ignored . [for earlier atonal composers, all intervals were equivalent.]• He applied these ideals in his opera Mathis der Maler and in his symphony Mathis der Maler (this works pre-dates the opera). – both compositions are based on oil paintings by the Renaissance German artist Matthias Grünewald.
Hindemith and Opera• In opera, Hindemith continues departure from Wagnerian principles – that had begun earlier with Richard Strauss, Alban Berg, and Kurt Weill.• Hindemith partly returns to a division of the work into “number-like” passages – suggesting arias, duets, choruses, and ensembles.• He abandons Wagner’s use of leitmotives , though: – reinforces a broad melodic unity by shared motives – quotes many pre-existing chants and folksongs.• In his writing, Hindemith justified his stylistic preferences in music on a moral basis
Principal Compositions by Paul Hindemith• Operas: include early one-act operas and Mathis der Maler• Orchestra: symphonies (Mathis der Maler ), concertos• Chamber music: string quartets (6), sonatas for most instruments• Songs: works include the cycle Das Marienleben (text by Rilke)• Chorus: pieces include – madrigals – Mass – When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d: Requiem for Those We Love• Piano: character pieces, contrapuntal cycle Ludus tonalis• “Music to Sing and Play”: works for young or amateur musicians
Mathis del Maler (Matthias the Painter)• Mathis der Maler reflects the Neoclassical style of the 1920- 30’s – as well as Hindemith’s attempt to accommodate the Nazi’s conservatism in artistic taste .• The operas genesis lay in Hindemiths interest in the Reformation.• The works protagonist (Matthias Grünewald) was an actual historical figure who flourished in that era – his art (in particular the Issenheim altarpiece) was an inspiration to many creative figures living in the early 20th century. • Hindemith wrote the libretto himself .• The finishing touches were completed in 1935 – by which time performances in Germany were out of the question.• The action (set during the Peasants War) concerns Matthiass struggle for artistic expression in the repressive climate of his day – and is clearly a mirror of Hindemiths own life as the Nazis came to power.
Main Characters in Hindemith’s Opera Mathis der Maler (1935)• Mathis – a painter• Albrecht – an archbishop, Mathis’s employer• Hans Schwalb – leader of a peasants’ revolt• Regina – his daughter
The Isenheim Altarpiece byMatthias Grünewald (c1515) The altar paintings by Matthias Grünewald depict—with both an agonizing realism and complex symbolism—scenes from the life of Jesus and early saints. The central image is the crucifixion, shown with the most gruesome detail. The inner panels of the altarpiece are more comforting. These show, among other scenes, Mary with the infant Jesus serenaded by a consort of angels, and a legendary meeting in a desert oasis between St. Anthony and St. Paul of the Desert. The paintings inspired Hindemith’s opera Mathis der
Paul Hindemith, Mathis der Maler , 1935, Scene 6, Entrance 3Multiple forms