Monday, March 1, 2021

Hindemith - Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

 Paul Hindemith was a prolific composer, teacher, conductor and violist. Hindemith had played 2nd violin in other quartets until after World War One, when he switched to the viola. He formed and played with the Amar Quartet from 1921 until 1933, and was considered one of the world's premiere violists. 

Some of his compositions were played at a contemporary music festival in Salzburg in 1922 and as a result was beginning to be noticed internationally. He became an organizer of another music festival in Germany and had some works by Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg performed. With the rise the Hitler regime, Hindemith's music was being labeled as degenerate by some high-ranking Nazi officials while others disagreed. His music continued to vacillate in and out of favor. Hindemith had been Professor at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik in Berlin since 1927, and with continuing pressure from Joseph Goebbels to resign from the school, he accepted an invitation from the Turkish government to go to Ankara in 1935 to help reorganize musical education in that country. He also had a tour of The United States in the 1930's as a viola soloist. By 1938, Hindemith had decided to emigrate to Switzerland with his wife, who had Jewish ancestry. 

He went to The United States in 1940 and began teaching at Yale University and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. He went back to Europe in 1953 and taught at the university in Zürich until her retired from teaching in 1957, but continued to conduct and compose up to his death in 1963.

Hindemith's music went through different phases, from late romanticism of his first works to a highly contrapuntal style later on. He composed in all musical forms and combinations of instruments, some of them quite unique. Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber was first suggested to him as a ballet taken from the music of Carl Maria von Weber, an early romantic - era composer.  When the project fell through, Hindemith wrote the Symphonic Metamorphosis in 1943. 

The work is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro -  Hindemith took the themes and the structure of the themes and kept them relatively the same, while harmonies, textures, and most everything else was fair game for change. The themes he used came from works that were originally written for piano, so the orchestration is all Hindemith. This first movement's themes came from a Piano Duet For Four Hands, Opus 60, No. 4 ,and consists of two themes, the first of which is:

Hindemith underlines the militaristic march feeling of the theme with the orchestration and the subtle changes of harmony. 

II. Scherzo: (Turandot) -  Moderato - Lively -  This movement uses the theme from Weber's incidental music to the play Turandot, Opus 37. The legend of Turandot that inspired the play was the same legend that inspired Puccini's unfinished opera of the same name.The theme is taken from the overture: 

The theme is repeated numerous times, and Hindemith treats each repetition in a different style,  with an exceptionally creative one has the percussion play off one another. Not surprisingly from an accomplished musical theorist and contrapuntalist, Hindemith uses counterpoint as well. The music grows into a more modern repetition before the music ends in a simple, quiet chord. 

III. Andantino - The third movement is more lyrical and serves as a contrast to the scherzo. The woodwinds are highlighted with solos as they are accompanied by complex harmonies in smooth and mellow music.

IV. Marsch -  The final movement is from Opus 60, N0. 7, the same collection that the first movement came from. The movement begins with the brass playing the first measures:

The music grows more and more intense with each repetition, with an undercurrent of near menace until the middle section in the major is first heard in the horns. Textures and harmonies grow more complex, and the opening music repeats in subdued dynamic initially, but the orchestra's brass roar out the middle section again. The opening motive is heard one more time and the music comes to a rousing finish.  Hindemith got all that he could from the themes he used,  and the work shows Hindemith's skill and talent for orchestration as well as developing a theme. 

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