Esther Walker on Paul Hindemith.

Esther Walker on Paul Hindemith.

November 27, 2017.  Esther Walker on Paul Hindemith.  A couple of weeks ago we missed Hindemith’s birthday: the German composer was born on November 16th of 1895.  Most music lovers w can acknowledge his talent but many would also admit that Hindemith is not “their” Paul Hindemithcomposer, that he’s too distant, dry, cerebral.  That’s what the Swiss pianist Esther Walker thought of Hindemith earlier in her career.  As she got involved with several of Hindemith’s piano pieces, her attitude changed.  Esther put her thoughts on Hidemith’s piano works into a very personal and thought-provoking essay.  In it she discusses the rarely-performed Ludus tonalis (we may point to the recordings made by the two Soviet pianists and good friends, Sviatoslav Richter and Anatoly Vedernikov), the Suite1922” and other pieces; examines the problem of conservative programming, firmly placing the blame on performers (and organizers), rather than composers or listeners; and gives us an insightful overview of Hindemith’s life.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the essay; you can read the complete piece on Esther’s site.  ♫

On Piano Music of Paul Hindemith.

Like many others before me, I too, in my youth and student days, grew into an unconsciously assumed, hardened and prejudiced (pre)conception of Hindemith. But the very few encounters which I had with this composer as a young pianist – whether it was through occasionally playing one of the Kammermusiks (op. 11) or hearing an orchestral work – forced me each time to cast doubt on this picture which I had of Hindemith. But some years ago, when it happened that I had to study four of Hindemith’s works (the Suite “1922”, the Kammermusik No. 1, The Four Temperaments and the Double Bass Sonata) in a relatively short period of time, I was forced to engage with this music in a much more intensive way than before and was really able to jettison my sometimes-unconscious prejudices. My active interest in Hindemith was aroused.

Of course, there are true Hindemith specialists who devote themselves to this composer and who consequently have a deep access to his output and a profound and unprejudiced knowledge of his life and work. 

Since I don’t exactly move in these specialist circles, I believe I can say that, unfortunately even today – especially in Latin countries – Hindemith’s music has the reputation, surely somewhat exaggerated, of being the product of an austere, nonsensical and emotionally-impoverished intellectuality, schoolmasterly and accordingly of little artistic worth.

Even Alfred Brendel, one of the great musical personalities of our time, who is so open, interested and intelligent, and who is able to exert a lasting influence on the next generation, refers to Hindemith in his two books Reflections on Music and Music Taken at his Word in only three passing comments, in which there is no mistaking a rather negative attitude to the composer. In an interview at the end of one of the books Hindemith is quoted in just one sentence, and to quote him so cursorily is usually dangerous, since a little later he would often contradict his pithy, sometimes provocative utterances, or at least qualify them.  [Please continue reading here].