German composer and teacher. His operas Cardillac (1926, revised 1952) and Mathis der Maler/Mathis the Painter (1933–35) are theatrically astute and politically aware; as a teacher in Berlin 1927–33 he encouraged the development of a functional modern repertoire (‘Gebrauchsmusik’/‘utility music’) for home and school.
In 1939 he emigrated to the USA, where he taught at Yale University and was influential in promoting a measured neoclassical idiom of self-evident contrapuntal mastery but matter-of-fact tone, exemplified in Ludus tonalis for piano (1942) and the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943). In later life he revised many of his earlier compositions to conform with a personal theory of tonality.
He was taught the violin as a child and entered the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, where he studied under Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles. Later he played in the Frankfurt Opera orchestra and was leader there 1915–23; in 1921 he founded a string quartet (the Amar-Hindemith quartet) with the Turkish violinist Licco Amar, in which he played viola. The quartet was disbanded in 1929, the year in which he premiered William Walton's viola concerto in London.
Works of his were heard at the Donaueschingen festival in 1921 and at the International Society for Contemporary Music festival at Salzburg, Austria, in 1922. His one-act operas of 1921–22 scandalized audiences and some musicians, and he had an early reputation as an iconoclast. His Kammermusik series, begun in 1922, sought to re-establish the musical values of the baroque concerto; Cardillac uses neoclassical forms, although its story of a goldsmith who murders his clients to regain his work recalls the savagery of Hindemith's early pieces for the stage.
From 1927 he taught composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and his music was conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler and Otto Klemperer, but the Nazis proscribed his works as degenerate art. His opera Mathis der Maler was therefore produced in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1938; a three-movement symphony from the opera was premiered in Berlin in 1934 by Fürtwangler, prompting a temporary break with the Nazi authorities. For some years after 1933 he was in Ankara, Turkey, in an official capacity to reorganize Turkish music education. In 1939 he emigrated to the USA, where he taught at Yale University, but in 1946 he returned to Europe and was active for several years as a conductor.
In his late, largely orchestral works, Hindemith sought further to establish the values of tonality and classical restraint. The vision of the astronomer Johannes Kepler in his last opera, Die Harmonie der Welt (1957), suggests the composer himself striving to hear the sounds emitted by the planets as they circle the Sun, oblivious to the harsher musical realities around him.
WorksOperaCardillac (after E T A Hoffmann, 1926), Mathis der Maler (1933–35), Die Harmonie der Welt (1957).
BalletNobilissima Visione (1938).
OrchestralKammermusik nos. 1–7 (1922–27; see separate entry), Mathis der Maler, symphony from the opera (1934), Der Schwanendreher, concerto after folk songs, for viola and small orchestra (1935), Trauermusik for viola and strings (1936), Nobilissima Visione, suite from the ballet (1938), cello concerto (1940), Symphony in E♭ (1940), Theme and Variations ‘The Four Temperaments’ for piano and strings (1940), Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943), Symphonia Serena (1946), clarinet concerto (1947), horn concerto (1949).
Chamber and keyboard six string quartets (1918–45); 16 sonatas for various instruments, including four for solo viola; Ludus tonalis: 12 fugues with prelude and postlude, and other works for piano; three organ sonatas.
Choral and solo vocalDas Marienleben, 15 songs for soprano and piano (texts by Rilke, 1922–23); Requiem, after Walt Whitman's ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd’ (1946).
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